Why do some politicians, who know better, spread and feed us racism?

by , under Enrique Tessieri

There is an old saying that goes something like this: I was a liberal in youth so I would not be a fascist in old age.

What motivates a politician to twist and exaggerate facts to stigmatize migrants? National Coalition Party (Kokoomus) MP Heikki Vestman’s speech in parliament Wednesday is a prime example of how some politicians spread Islamophobia to attract attention and gain power.

His unsubstantiated talking points motivated me to write an email to him, which he has not yet responded to.

Moreover, the MP uses code to tell us what groups he is targetting. The term “asylum seeker” usually means Muslim.

“When I heard your speech and rationale Wednesday (20 October), I wondered how a young, apparently intelligent person could house such opinionated and unsubstantiated claims about migrants. If you are honest, would you want to [live and] grow up in a country where this type of discourse is ongoing by politicians seeking power and attention? 
Read some history and check out how the Finns were labeled in Sweden during the 1960s and 1970s. 

Does the phrase “en finne igen” ring a bell?

After North America, the greatest number of Finnish immigrants, or about half a million people, moved to Sweden. In the 1960s and 1970s, Finns had a terrible reputation in the neighboring country. Whenever a crime occurred, Swedes usually responded, “it must be a Finn,” en finne igen.

Here is a question to Vestman: Why are you picking and bullying vulnerable groups of people who cannot defend themselves from your attacks?

National Coalition Party anti-immigration MP Heikki Vestman. Source: Kokoomus

Below are some unsubstantiated claims (that I translated and paraphrased) from Vestman’s speech. He was against loosening family reunification guidelines because the minors, whom he sadly referred to as “anchor babies,” could become a national security threat.

Vestman should know that having a family is a human right.

Below are a few comments made by the MP and my reply to them.

Claim by Heikki Vestman: We want to help the neediest according to our [limitted] resources.

Reply by Migrant Tales: Isn’t Finland a prosperous country? It’s not resources but what is lacking is political will, which is in short supply. 

Claim by HV: We want to protect our most cherished values: freedom, gender equality, and security.

Reply by MT: So, is that what you think asylum seekers and migrants will do when they move to Finland? Will they undermine these values? Note: The MP uses the term tasa-arvo, which legally means gender equality. Why does he use gender equality to mean social equality and non-discrimination, yhdenvertaisuus? Is it intentional?

Claim by HV: Only one-fourth of the asylum applications in 2015-2016 was granted residence permits [by the Finnish Immigration Service]. Therefore, the majority of asylum seekers were trying to take advantage of the system. 

Reply by MT: A very awkward claim. So the MP means that if an asylum seeker failed to get a residence permit, that person is not a real asylum seeker? What about if the Finnish Immigration Service did a poor job?

Claim by HV: Kokoomus offers protection to the neediest, women and children.

Reply by MT: The claim, protection for only women and children, exposes Vestman’s and others’ white savior complex. Only women and children? What about everyone who needs protection?

Claim by HV: The Finnish Immigration Service and Supo (Finnish Security and Intelligence Service) have warned that “anchor babies” could pose a national security threat.

Reply by MT: Really? Terrorism is a threat everywhere, and it is not only determined by a person’s background. What about Anders Breivik and all the school killings we tragically witnessed in Finland a while back? If you think of it, there have been few “security risks” in Finland after 2015.

Claim by HV: Loosening family reunification requirements will undermine a person’s motive to integrate into society. 

Reply by MT: Studies prove the contrary. A family is important because it helps the person integrate and reduces depression, among other health issues. Society saves money in the long run.

Claim by HV: Too few migrants have integrated into Finnish society.

Reply by MT: Really? Says who? Do you have any studies, apart from hunches and personal opinions by politicians, to back up your claim? 

The MP made other points that I will not publish here. But the message is clear: asylum seekers, especially Muslims, are not welcome in Finland.