Mahad Sheikh Musse* has worked in Helsinki as a youth worker in various roles and with various communities for the past 15 years. If there is somebody who understands minority youth issues, it is him. Migrant Tales had the opportunity to chat with Mahad during his busy schedule.
We all know how the elections in Sweden went. The far-right Sweden Democrats exploited and made gang violence their campaign message. Their rhetoric paid off, turning the Sweden Democrats into the biggest right-wing party and an opportunity to form part of government for the first time.
Even if in Finland, we are nowhere near Sweden regarding gang violence, politicians from the far-right Perussuomalaiset (PS)*, National Coalition Party (Kokoomus), and Christian Democrats are trying to exploit the same issue with parliamentary elections in April.
Expect accusations and finger-pointing by these parties and the media will get louder in the months ahead.
Contrary to what the media and certain politicians are spreading, Mahad does not believe that there are organized youth gangs in Finland like in Sweden. In other words, so-called gang violence is not an issue but spread by politicians with an agenda.
Even if violent crimes suspects under 15 has grown, it has gradually fallen throughout the 2010s for the 15 and 17 age group, according to Yle News.
Even so, Finland is still far ways off Sweden concerning suspected youth crime cases.
“In my opinion, the worst mistake our officials can make is to group all of our youth minorities into one group,” he said. “You are not interacting with youths as individuals but as a group. Apart from exaggerating the problem, it is a racist way of looking at the issue.”
Mahad said that one of the biggest problems concerning minority youths is that they don’t have access to services that should help them and that we talk about their problems without their presence.
“Some journalists have little idea about about the lives of minority youths,” he added and stressed once again: “If we want to improve the lives of minority youths, we must deal with them individually and not by putting them into one group.”
Mahad said that the problem boils down to how we debate the matter publicly. It is important to remember that the authorities must distinguish between those that commit crimes and those that don’t.
“The message from the #authorities to #youth must be clear: Everyone is an individual and responsible for their crimes,” he said.
The youth worker said that one big challenge is overcoming ignorance of such youths. Moreover, some migrants and minorities like to hide inside their groups and be part of a system that promotes institutional racism and social exclusion.
“You have people [like politicians and the media] talking about minorities without even knowing anything about such people,” he continued. “When it comes to minorities, everyone is automatically an expert.”
“Pretty incredible, no?”
*Mahad Sheikh Musse is a board member of Rasmus ry, an anti-racism association.