What President Sauli Niinstö forgets to state when he claims that migrants should “do as the Romans do”

by , under Enrique Tessieri

What does President Sauli Niinitö mean by the controversial phrase, in Rome do as the Romans do, or maassa maan tavalla?

He is quoted as saying in YLE News:

“’When in Rome, do as the Romans do’, to use a rather worn-out and highly criticized phrase. There must be a respect for the principles of democracy, equality and human rights like the kind we share in Finland. Beyond these fundamentals, there remains a great deal of breathing room for multiculturalism to still thrive.”

Good. I’m glad that President Niinistö defines what this means and how it should be applied. There is, however, one very big flaw in the statement. It assumes that migrants that come here don’t understand “the principles of democracy, equality and human rights.”

Is this true?

Does anyone spot a pinch of ethnocentrism in Niinistö’s claim? What about the rise of a populist anti-immigration party, the Perussuomalaiset (PS)*, suggest about how some Finns apply the “principle of democracy, equality and human rights?”

Bashy Quraishy, a friend and colleague of mine, recently stated in a Facebook post:

All western countries call themselves democracies – even if many would fail a real democracy test, namely provide equal rights for all its citizens and protect ethnic and religious minorities from injustices and discrimination.

Näyttökuva 2015-10-19 kello 14.58.24
Read full story here.

Let’s stop being naive and look at the challenges from both sides.

President Niinistö, who has given mixed statements about migrants and our ever-growing cultural diversity, sounds like the many politicians in Finland who near-constantly express suspicion of migrants and minorities as well as emphasize their white Finnish privilege.

As far as I’m concerned, President Niinistö never was friendly about cultural diversity and empowering migrants and minorities to feel included in this country.

*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.