Monday, July 27, 2015

Olli Immonen: a racist dream

Anders Behring Breivik, the infamous Norwegian terrorist who went on a killing spree in Norway in the summer of 2011 circulated a manifesto online that bears similarities with a Facebook update posted by a young Finnish politician and member of parliament on Friday evening. Like Breivik the MP opposes multiculturalism, and uses explosive words - the kind of words used in other hateful manifestos, including manifestos posted online by people like Anders Breivik and Dylann Roof, the racist who killed nine African Americans in the Emanuel AME church in Charleston, South Carolina.

A second-term MP for the Finns Party, Olli Immonen, posted a status update on Facebook on 24 July 2015 in which he made no secret of his extreme-right views. In the status update, the MP whose link to the far-right is well-documented, called for a "fight" against "this nightmare called multiculturalism", and stated that the "ugly bubble" will soon "burst into a million little pieces." In the fiery post, the MP expressed "belief" in his "fellow fighters" and promised to "fight until the end...". He also mentions "enemies" but make no mention of who exactly the enemies are.

My view

Olli Immonen's statement amounts to incitement of hatred against minority cultural, ethnic and religious groups in Finland, and bears stark similarities to rants in dangerous manifestos posted online by mass murderers, including Anders Breivik and Dylann Roof - the so-called "white supremacist" who like Immonen created a us-against-them scenario and ranted online about his desire to "fight" against those perceived to be taking over his country.

In a 1500-paged manifesto, Anders Breivik of Norway strongly opposed multiculturalism, and stated that a multicultural society is "temporary", and that "sooner or later" there'll be a return to a new monocultural society - a stance Immonen seems to agree with. Like Breivik, Immonen beliefs that there's some kind of "war" going on, and that his "fellow fighters" (what Breivik referred to as "cultural conservative resistance fighters") - will "fight" to the very end.

Olli Immonen's distasteful Facebook post is a rallying call and call to arms for xenophobes, islamophobes and racists under the guise of patriotism. The statement is coined to sound like the young politician has a dream  - perhaps like Dr. Martin Luther King. But Immonen's dream is different; it's a racist dream; a dream that pitches Finnish culture and identity against other cultures and identities in the Nordic country.The gullible among his followers could heed the call, and Finland could see a spike in hate crimes as a results.

It's disturbing that it took more than 24 hours - as reported by Yle - for Prime Minister Juha Sipilä who formed a government with the party Olli Immonen represents to weigh in on the MP's scary remarks. Even more disturbing is the fact that the Finns Party's chairman, Timo Soini, is yet to comment on the controversy. The chairman's silence suggests an approval of the message -  an approval which would not be surprising.

Worthy to mention that this is not the first time Olli Immonen's views and conduct have raised concern. The 29-year-old, whose hobbies include shooting - according to his website, posed for a group photo in June 2015 with a group called the Finnish Resistance Movement at the grave of a Finnish nationalist who assassinated a Governor-General in 1904.

The Finns Party that Immonen represents in parliament is no stranger to controversies linked to racism and incitement of hatred. Although the party's leadership repeatedly claims, after each scandal, that outrageous statements by its MPs and Councillors do not represent the party's stance one thing is undeniable: birds of a feather flock together. And if it looks like a duck, swims like a duck, and quacks like a duck, then it is a duck.

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

US failure to protect Charleston church victims of racist massacre

In this age of mass surveillance in the United States in an effort to preempt acts of terror like that meted out against the congregation of the historical Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal church in Charleston, South Carolina, it is hard to believe that the wide net of surveillance cast both online and offline by US law enforcement missed the perpetrator of the atrocity despite eye-popping red flags.

On 17 June 2015 an alleged "white supremacist" gunned down nine people - six women and three men - at the Emanuel AME church in Charleston, a historical church linked to the civil rights movement. The nine victims of the massacre - all African Americans - reportedly sat in church with the perpetrator, Dylann Roof, 21, in a bible study group and prayer meeting for an hour before the massacre.

Worthy of note that the perpetrator who, according to his childhood friend, wanted segregation between whites and blacks was known by law enforcement and had been previously arrested - besides having a racist manifesto online threatening violence. According to a BBC report, he drew the attention of the police at a shopping mall in February when he walked into the mall all dressed in black and asked strange questions to shop employees. He was found to be carrying a drug without prescription and was arrested and charged for drug possession. He was also banned from the mall, and was arrested for trespassing at the same mall two months later.

Dylann Roof had a racist manifesto online - which according to the New York Times reveals that the case of Trayvon Martin, a black teenager killed in Florida in 2012 triggered his racist rage. The nearly 2,500-word manifesto, which was discovered on a website described blacks as being inferior, amongst other things. "I have no choice," the manifesto reads. "I am not in the position to, alone, go into the ghetto and fight. I chose Charleston because it is the most historic city in my state, and at one time had the highest ratio of blacks to whites in the country. We have no skinheads, no real KKK, no one doing anything but talking on the internet. Well someone has to have the bravery to take it to the real world, and I guess that has to be me." 

According to the New York Times the website that carries the manifesto was first published in February - four months before the rampage - under the killer's name, Dylann Roof. The New York Times reports that the Charleston Police Department and the FBI were  aware of the website and are "taking steps to verify the authenticity" of the postings on the site, which features a photo of Dylann Roof posing with a handgun and the confederate flag.

His roommate reportedly told ABC News  that he (Roof) planned the massacre for months.

My view

Mindful of the numerous red flags and mass surveillance by US law enforcement reportedly intended to stop such attacks, Dylann Roof should have been stopped before the attack. Just two weeks before the church attack, a certain 26-year-old Usaama Rahim who was under surveillance was followed by a police officer and an FBI agent and killed in Boston. According to the BBC, Usaama Rahim was under 24-hour surveillance because he was considered a threat to the public. It is inconceivable why Roof, despite having all the earmarks of ticking time bomb, was not considered a threat to the public and perhaps placed under surveillance like Rahim. Roof posed a threat to the public and he made no secret about it, but unlike Rahim he was not followed around. Perhaps his planned massacre was not considered serious enough to earn him a place in the controversial surveillance program. Or perhaps US law enforcement does not consider racist hate crime against African Americans a crime worth dedicating resources to abort. Maybe stopping hate crime against African Americans in its tracks it not a priority.

I refuse to believe that law enforcement was completely unaware of Dylann Roof and what he was capable of. Someone in law enforcement somewhere must have read the racist manifesto in which he "chose Charleston" for his " white fight". The plan was out in the open. Someone must have spotted it and decided not to act against it. If Dylann Roof  fitted the racist profile of what many people in society consider, wrongly of course, nowadays to be  a terrorist: non-white and Muslim, he should have been stopped. He should have been placed under surveillance and approached by a police officer and maybe an FBI agent at the Emanuel AME church on that fateful night - in the same way law enforcement officers approached suspected terrorist Usaama Rahim in Boston.

I share the view that it is important to call the Charleston attack "terrorism", and all other similar attacks that pass as hate crime. The perpetrator's motive was to attack the historic African American church, kill African Americans and strike terror into the hearts of  survivors and African Americans in general. Officials and the media chose to call it a "hate crime". Others called it a "tragedy", but in my view it is terrorism. All acts of terror are technically hate crimes. It is unfortunate that an act of terror is described as a "hate crime" based on what the perpetrator looks like or beliefs in.

Dylann Roof should have been on a watch list and followed closely like other suspected terrorists. The nine victims of the Charleston church attack add to the long list of victims of America's senseless gun laws and a law enforcement system tainted by racial profiling. If Dylann Roof was not white and blonde chances are someone in US law enforcement would have paid closer attention to his online postings, which include the racist manifesto in which he "chose Charleston."

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Forced sterilization of Africans in Finland: a racist suggestion

Finland is by no means Nazi-Germany but there are politicians in the Nordic country who, if given a chance, would gladly implement policies and practices that are reminiscent of Adolf Hitler's reign in Germany. One of such politicians is a member of the populist True Finns Party who suggested that African immigrants should be forcibly sterilized.

On Tuesday 27 May 2015, Olli Sademies, a reserve councilor for the Finns Party in Helsinki suggested in a Facebook status update that African men in Finland should be forcibly sterilized so as to curb what he thinks is a high birth rate among immigrants. According to Yle, the politician suggested that the number of children born by immigrants should be limited to a maximum of three, and that in order to limit birth rate, African men should be forcibly sterilized.

Yle reports that the leader of the group of Finns Party councilors in Helsinki condemned the remarks and described the Facebook update as "fascism" and "completely mad." The party's secretary said reserve councilor Sademies' comments are not the party's.

My view

Although Olli Sademies is an obscure politician who, according to Yle received only 462 votes in the parliamentary elections in spring this year and did not make it to parliament, his despicable view on how immigrants should be treated must be taken seriously. Adolf Hitler, an epitome of man's inhumanity to man, was once obscure before his rise to power where they implemented horrific policies, including forced sterilization of people deemed "abnormal", and the extermination of Jews and people from other minority groups. It is therefore important to nip in the bud dangerous views expressed by politicians irrespective of the amount of power they wield at any point in their political career.

The Finns Party "distanced itself" from the racist statement, but distancing itself from the statement is not enough. The party, which already has a reputation as xenophobic, populist, anti-immigration and anti-EU, must do more to get rid of individuals who hold and express horrendous views in its ranks - if the party truly does not share the views or does not benefit from such utterances that seem to energize its base.

It is not a coincidence that many, if not most, racist political scandals in Finland are linked to the Finns Party: from Teuvo Hakkarainen who used the n-word to refer to Africans on his first day in parliament, to Helena Eronen who suggested that foreigners should be forced to wear armbands in order to ease identification by the police, and to James Hirvisaari and  Jussi Halla-aho who were convicted by Finnish courts for inciting hatred against an ethnic group. The Finns Party clearly attracts people with racist, xenophobic views. It will take more than slaps on the wrists of offenders and political statements by the party's leaders to clean up the party's sullied reputation.

People of African descent around the world are constantly on the receiving end of racism, discrimination and abusive policies - sometimes sanctioned by state institutions. According to the World Health Organization, in some countries, people belonging to certain certain population groups, including ethnic minorities continue to be sterilized without their full, free and informed consent. Israel for instance admitted in 2013 that it covertly sterilized Eritrean Jews without their consent. Although forced sterilization is required for transgenders in Finland, the inhumane practice is unlikely to be extended to people of African descent or any other minority group without their consent. However, Africans must be vigilant, especially when a politician starts floating the despicable idea around. There is a negative precedent as in the case of Israel.

Of course, the suggestion that Africans have too many children even after moving to Finland is not true. A report by Helsingin Sanomat revealed that immigrants' birth rate falls upon arrival in Finland and is not very different from the birth rate of ethnic Finns. Hence it is both racist and uninformed to suggest that African migrants should be sterilized because they continue to reproduce at the same rate after moving to Finland.

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