Apart from the usual social-media lynch mobs roaming the net, we have now seen since the April 17 election a worrying rise in hate crimes in Finland. The matter has escalated to such proportions that President Tarja Halonen expressed concern this week over the problem.
One important matter to keep in mind when battling a foe like racism is that we can never underestimate its devastating power never mind run away from its challenge.
Finland must do the same. It is pretty clear that we cannot any longer pretend that racism isn’t a problem in our society.
An important question to ask is what is fuelling it.
Even if we cannot blame a single party or group we can, however, demand parties like the Perussuomalaiset (PS) as well as others to address the menace with much greater resolve.
The same worrisome trend we are seeing in Finland is also present throughout Europe. Right-wing populist parties have grown in size in past years and are pointing the finger at immigrants for all of the country’s problems. This questionable style of politicking is unacceptable and should be strongly condemned by sensible people.
Another indication that matters may be spiralling out of hand was an attack this week of the speaker of the house, Ben Zyskowicz. The assailant tried to hit the Kokoomus MP before calling him a dirty Jew.
What can be done? Is their enough political will to tackle this problem? Would a party like the PS, which bases much of support on anti-immigration rhetoric, openly condemn racism and isolate MPs like Jussi Halla-aho and others that are members of the Nazi-spirited Suomen Sisu association?
Would the PS be the same party if it abandoned its strong anti-immigration stance?
Despite these serious challenges for Timo Soini’s party, it is pretty clear that the PS does not consider racism a big enough problem to condemn without conditions. The party lost a good opportunity to set the record straight in their statement against racism. Instead of condemning racism and discrimination, the PS preferred to make a case against so-called positive discrimination.
It would be naive to suggest that only the PS is responsible for the escalation of hate crimes in Finland. We should look at parties like Kokoomus and Social Democrats. A definite sore spot for Kokoomus has been Wille Rydman. Eero Heinäluoma has claimed, among other things, that hundreds of thousands of Estonian workers will invade and steal jobs from Finns.
The PS’ statement against racism, Rydman’s toughened stance against the treatment of immigrants and Heinäluoma’s scare tactics are not racist but they fuel a climate of suspicion and resentment of immigrants in Finland.
But who is the culprit for the recent spate in hate crimes in Finland?
One of these is poor economic growth and rising unemployment. Even so, an even bigger one are public officials who fuel it directly or indirectly with their statments and actions.
If we don’t nip racism in the bud in Finland it will end up nipping us.
Skilled labor, foreign investment and innovation rarely flourishes in hostile and bigoted environments.