In the face of the humanitarian refugee crisis that we are seeing today in Europe, some leaders like German Chancellor Angela Merkel are offering leadership while others are frozen with indecision and indifference.
It is disappointing that Finland, which had to relocate over 400,000 of its own refugees after hostilities ended with the former Soviet Union in 1944 is one that is gripped by hesitation and have, like other Eastern European countries, meekly answered Merkel’s call.
What did the German chancellor say?
“There will be zero tolerance for those who put in question the dignity of other people,” she said warning people to stay away from far right and xenophobic rallies. “Don’t follow their leaders or those who have prejudice, coldness, even hate in their hearts.”
Why does she say this? Because Germany hasn’t forgotten those rivers of blood that flowed in World War 2 and the Holocaust.
Finland’s President Sauli Niinistö’s and Prime Minister Juha Sipilä’s lack of leadership in the face of the humanitarian crisis isn’t a coincidence. Both of them reveal with their lack of resolve why this country has become in recent years fertile ground for xenophobia and ultranationalism.
Read full story (in Finnish) here.
Those of us who are still surprised by the xenophobia that is gripping Finland, or worse are indifferent and watching silently, should understand that indifference breeds extremism and xenophobia.
In the last years populist anti-immigration parties, some with neo-Nazi roots, have appeared in the Nordic region as major parties. In Finland we have the Perussuomalaiset (PS),* which became a member of the government for the first time.
Not wanting to understand why such parties grew from near-obscurity to become one of the biggest parties in Finland is underestimating the threat they pose to our society.
The PS’ popularity is not only based on its anti-EU and anti-cultural diversity rhetoric but on a promise to its voters: We don’t like Somalis and Muslims either so we’ll promise to get rid of this problem.
But in the spirit of populist parties there is little that the PS can do except fuel racism and bigotry in the process.
Not only is there a lack of political leadership in government and the executive, matters have also got so much out of hand in Finland that the councilpersons and members of the town board of Keuru were intimidated so much by locals the the police had to be called in to guard the town hall during the day when the town board voted to establish the country’s largest refugee center, according to tabloid Ilta-Sanomat.
The board decided 7-1 not to open a refugee center.
On Tuesday two leading media sites announced that they would shut down public comment on their websites, according to YLE in English.
Comment on Helsingin Sanomat’s NYT supplement will be shut for two weeks while MTV3 announced they would not accept comments on stories relating to migration and refugees indefinitely due “to a flood of hate speech and ‘weak quality discussion.'”
Writes YLE in English:
“Editor-in-chief Merja Ylä-Anttila says that the refugee crisis has spurred overheated comment and hate speech on MTV’s websites. For this reason the media group will no longer open comment on stories related to asylum seekers and immigration issues.
Black-and-white attitudes on these matters have become even harder and the language used is far from appropriate, she told Yle on Tuesday. For one reason or another, I think the debate has escalated in just the past few weeks. And moderating it is extremely difficult.”
Add to the latter a government party like the PS that shamelessly and openly insults migrants and refugees, declares war on the “nightmare of multiculturalism,” blacklists journalists, politicians and professors and you have before you the seeds of a sledgehammer that with one furious blow will change this country for good.
* The Finnish name for the Finns Party is the Perussuomalaiset (PS). The names 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.