European and Finnish politicians that opportunistically exploit the Charlie Hebdo attack

by , under Enrique Tessieri

As the pieces settle and attempt to find their places after the Charlie Hebdo attack, it is surprising how not only anti-Islam and anti-immigration groups are taking political advantage of what happened but even those who you thought didn’t have such agendas. Another important expected narrative is what the media is telling us and what it’s not.

Let’s make no mistake, what happened in Paris is a tragedy. Without dishing out simple answers that permit us to remain in our ideological and ethnic comfort zones, there is an important question: Did Charlie Hebdo attack have anything to do with free speech? Or was it about war?

If we seek an answer from Perussuomalaiset (PS)* politicians like MP Olli Immonen, it’s clear that the attack didn’t have to do with free speech. He writes on his blog that as a result of what happened, Finland and Europe should halt immigration from Muslim country and give incentives for those that live in Europe to go back to where they came?

Another politician playing to the Islamophobic I-told-you-so tune is PS MEP Jussi Halla-aho, who paints all Muslims with a single brush on his blog by claiming that the world view of the majority of Muslims is no different from those that carried out the Charlie Hebdo attack.

Such opportunistic statements by Immonen and Halla-aho show how some Europeans think about cultural diversity.  They have no solutions except for spewing hatred and fueling suspicion of other groups. If Europe were run by the likes of them, we’d be on a new crusade like the Spanish Inquisition.

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While it’s expected that some politicians are exploiting the tragedy to further their political agendas, it was surprising to read the comments of Risto Uimonen, the chair of Finland’s press watchdog the Council for Mass Media in Finland, who appeared to affirm a clash of civilizations between the West and Islamic world, according to Yle in English.

“This is a strong attack on democracy and freedom of speech,” he was quoted as saying. “It pits two understandings of democracy, western and Islamic, against each other–and they can’t be reconciled.”

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If you are interested, why not join the new Facebook group Je ne suis pas Risto Uimonen?


The same argument that Uimonen uses is employed by the far right and anti-immigration groups. In simple English it means the following: We want to keep Europe white, ethnically and culturally you will never be like us and therefore you are not welcome to live with us.

The Finnish name for the Finns Party is the Perussuomalaiset (PS). The English names of the party adopted by the PS, like True Finns or Finns Party, promote in our opinion nativist nationalism and xenophobia. We therefore prefer to use the Finnish name of the party on our postings.

  1. Toiset Soundit

    Enrique, I do not doubt the fact that the perpetrators – if they were islamistic fanatics – also want vengeance on France for the war crimes committed by the West against certain islamic countries.
    But my answer to ” Did Charlie Hebdo attack have anything to do with free speech?” is a clear yes and the facts are there: they attacked a haven of free speech, a paper whose trademark was satire, very hard satire, sometimes even insulting (but hey: grow up!). They did not target a state institution such as the military or the national bank or a police station or the parliament, no instead those fanatics targeted 12 people working for a left-leaning magazine…
    Let it be clear: we now must all stand united against the tyranny of religious fanatism, as well as against all those who want to divide us. Let’s react as did Stoltenberg after the racist murders committed by Breivik: by finding a common ground and bringing people together. On a somewhat cynical note: Stoltenberg today is head of NATO, an organization responsible for bombing the hell out of innocent citizens in say Lybia, Afghanistan etc…

    • Yossie

      This is a bit offtopic but:

      “Stoltenberg today is head of NATO, an organization responsible for bombing the hell out of innocent citizens in say Lybia, Afghanistan etc…”

      I have to point out that they do not intend to kill innocent citizens. Now, what would you do? No bombs at all? Just leave terrorist be? ISIS performing a genocide in iraq, just leave them be, bombs might kill innocent citizens?

    • Enrique Tessieri

      Hi Toiset Soundit and great to hear from you. I used to work as a foreign correspondent and journalist for 25 years. Press freedom is vital and should be one of the watchdogs ensuring that Montesquieu’s checks and balances function.

      If you read the article to the link it asks that questions. Any sensible person deplores war. However, we can wage war, discriminate, marginalize and loathe whole groups like Muslims and paint them with a single brush? When that war we’ve waged comes to our footsteps we are naturally shocked and outraged. What happened in Paris should be strongly condemned as what is being happening in the Middle East for a long time.

      Thus, it may have had something to do with press freedom but the real culprit behind everything is war.

  2. Toiset Soundit

    And about this fellow Uimonen: he is just plain stupid. How can he generalize that all islamic people have a totally different stand on democracy, freedom of speech and so on? Never forget that the first to be killed by muslim fanatic scum are by the way muslims, such as Ahmed the Parisian policeman killed yesterday when protecting the very people who criticize(d) and ridiculize(d) the prophet M (the actual target of the cartoonists and journalists of CH is religion as such, and especially religious fundamentalism and fanaticism) or such as people living Under the reign of terror of the Taliban, Isil or Iran.

    Three examples (but the list could go on and on) to show that Uimonen’s view is very white and black without any shades of grey:

    Debatunisie (Tunisian cartoonist)
    Jeanne Bougrab (Partner of killed editor-in-chief Charb, of arabic origin)
    Kianoush Ramezani

    Those people stand in the frontlines of freedom of speech and they all have islamic backgrounds…

    • Enrique Tessieri

      Good point about Jens Stoltenberg and Nato. So, what we can state at the end of the day is narrative search. How should we interpret what happened. The media, which is backed by special interests, will give you one narrative, while others will give you another interpretation. One of the things that bothers me about the present narrative is how we don’t even aim to understand the problem, the war, that is being waged by both sides. In that war there are atrocities and terrible things like what happened in Paris.

    • Enrique Tessieri

      I’m certain that Edward Said’s Orientalism would provide good insight and a reliable narrative to what we witnessed in Paris.