By Enrique Tessieri
The rise of right-wing anti-immigration populist parties and Counter-Jihadist groups mushrooming from the undercurrent of nationalism and prejudice show how we have failed on many fronts as a society. Is there anything we can do challenge this threat?
The small city of Lieksa located in eastern Finland is a good example of how a community can regain lost ground in the fight against racism and xenophobia. This battle cannot be left to a few brave inhabitants but should become a top priority for the whole community.
Lieksa is a small city with 12,800 inhabitants and about 250 immigrants mostly from Somalia.
The law and its interpretation play crucial roles as we saw Thursday, when a court in Pohjois-Karjala sentenced a man from Lieksa for his comments on Facebook to 60 days imprisonment. Five other people from the same city were fined between 150 and 500 euros for taking part in the same Facebook group.
Charges against two others were dropped.
The Facebook group, called “Mamu keskustelu ilman sensuuria (Lieksa),” or “Immigrant debate without censorship (Lieksa),” was deactivated as well. This is good news and encouraging. It shows that racism can be challenged and beaten where it flourishes.
It demonstrates as well that those that spread racism sow the seeds of the destruction of their cause. Mamu keskustelu ilman sensuuria (Lieksa) was subsequently deactivated because a member of that groups had published without permission the bank statement of a Somali resident of Lieksa. The police are investigating the matter and the woman who made public the bank statement could be charged with invasion of privacy.
Those who claim that these type of discussion groups are not harmful to our society, immigrants and visible minorities should think twice. They are the social-media platforms where old hatreds survive to see another day and where new suspicions grow and impact people’s lives. They are the monkey wrenches thrown constantly in the gears of many immigrants’ integration process.
Prejudice, racism and all type of hatred that divide groups are extremely hazardous to a society’s health. It is costly as well for tax payers like you and I.