The Finnish government’s wishy-washy and surreal stand on racism

by , under Enrique Tessieri

The leadership of Center Party Prime Minister Juha Sipilä, Finance Minister Alexsander Stubb of the National Coalition Party never mind Perussuomalaiset (PS)* Foreign Minister Timo Soini is disgraceful and will go down as one of the low points in Finland’s history.

The language and stand of the government against ever-rising xenophobia in  Finland vacillates from sensible to surreal statements.

A good example of the latter was Thursday, when Prime Minister Sipilä said in parliament that people should not immediately label people racists.

“When debating we should be sensible and calm so we don’t label these people racists that express their own concerns,” he said. “In my opinion, we have to hear what they want to say as well.”

Stubb took a more surreal approach after agreeing with what Sipilä said. “We have to be tolerant in every direction,” he said. “In this country we don’t approve of racism or hate speech…”

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Said Prime Minister Juha Sipilä in parliament Thursday: (Top sentence) “When debating we should be sensible and calm so we don’t label these people racists that express their own concerns. In my opinion, we have to hear what they want to say as well.” (Middle sentence) A man is protesting at a refugee center in Lahti dressed as a Ku Klux Klan clansman. (Lower sentence) “Can we now call this person a racist, Juha Sipilä?”

One of the problems when following the government’s record on refugee and migration policy is how wishy-washy they are. They say one thing but then erase it with another statement. Back to square one.

In my opinion, the most outrageous statement made Thursday was by Minister of Social Welfare and Health Hanna Mäntylä, who responded to Swedish People’s Party MP Eva Biaudet’s concern about ever-growing xenophobia in Finland.

Mäntylä is one of the closest supporters of PS MEP Jussi Halla-aho, who was sentenced for ethnic agitation.

“I consider it dangerous if you take away from the people their opportunity to express dissenting views about the topic [like refugees and migration] if they are labeled racists,” she said. “I don’t consider this a good thing.”

A good thing? What about those migrants and minorities living in Finland, Hanna Mäntylä, those that have to put up with your apologetic statements? Do we have the right to express our views about the hostility that you and the government are giving the green light to?

After the government claimed on Thursday that we should do everything possible not to hurt racists’ feelings and be tolerant of their hate, a bus full of refugees was attacked in Lahti later that evening with firecrackers and rocks thrown at a Red Cross worker.

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Read full BBC story here.

In Kouvola, 62km east of Lahti, a fifty-year-old man tried to burn a refugee center the same evening with a Molotov cocktail.

Nobody was hurt.

The suspect was apprehended and is in police custody.

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.