One of the biggest blows to the far right and right-wing populist parties in Europe and the Nordic Region after the horrific events in Norway has been to their provocative anti-immigration and especially anti-Islam discourse.
What was acceptable before, like racist gaffes and jokes by politicians, their aides and common citizens, look terribly embarrassing today in light of Norway. There are a lot of red faces today out there.
In Finland, the biggest loser of post-22/7 are the so-called anti-Islam Counter-Jihad extremists of the Perussuomalaiset (PS) party. They are the MPs who signed the Nuiva manifesto: Jussi Halla-aho, Juho Eerola, James Hirvisaari, Olli Immonen, Vesa-Matti Saarakkala, Maria Lohela and others.
What unites these PS politicians is their extremist views of Islam, immigration that is stuck in a time warp eerily close to how Nazi Germany perceived “racial hygiene,” or that ethnic groups should not mix.
But this is only a small number of the openly anti-immigration PS MPs in parliament. We have all heard of PS MP Teuvo Hakkarainen and some may even know who Reijo Tossavainen is. He said in May that Finland should close its borders to asylum-seekers.
According to researcher Toby Archer of the Finnish Institute of International Affairs, Counter-Jihad is the new ideology found in the blogshpere, which is not anti-Semitic nor does it associate itself with neo-Nazis. I see it is a sort of modern-day fascism without the heavy ideological baggage of its predecessor.
One of the best-known sites for the Counter-Jihad movement is the Gates of Vienna, where Halla-aho was a regular contributor, translator and correspondent. The website used to be visited frequently as well by Anders Behring Breivik, the mass killer of Norway.
What I find surprising is how a politician like Halla-aho washes his hands of how his extremist views on Islam could have impacted Breivik. Green Party MP Outi Alanko Kahluoto writes (in Finnish) has a good blog entry about this.
The tide for the Counter-Jihadists has turned especially in Finland after 22/7. More politicians, the media and common citizens are seriously questioning the PS’ and other people’s anti-immigration and anti-Islam stances today than ever before.
One of these public figures is Social Democrat Foreign Minister Erkki Tuomioja, who said in the Kokoomus-run Verrkouutiset that PS head Timo Soini bore responsibility for the racist language coming out of the party. “There should be zero tolerance (in society) for this type of hate speech (by Halla-aho his followers and others),” he said.
In order to put a lid on racism on the net, Tuomioja suggested that bloggers should as a general rule publish threads and blog entries with their real names. If this isn’t possible, the real name should be known to the administrator of the blog.
EU Commissioner for Home Affairs Cecilia Malmström said in Spiegel Online International that Europe wants to fight right-wing extremism.
“I have many times expressed my concern over xenophobic parties who build their unfortunately quite successful rhetoric on negative opinions on Islam and other so-called threats against society,” writes Malmström. “This creates a very negative environment, and sadly there are too few leaders today who stand up for diversity and for the importance of having open, democratic and tolerant societies where everybody is welcome.”