Over the years, Muslims and immigrants have been used as punching bags in Finland, but the situation is gradually spiraling out of control. Extreme right-wing politicians have hijacked the immigration debate and taken to the internet to incite hatred against immigrants and Muslims. The 22 July massacre in Norway has put the spot light on some politicians who have made a name for themselves by targeting Muslims and immigrants. The surge in extreme right populism and incitement of hatred online has prompted some prominent Finns to speak out - urging politicians to stop using racist hate speech to win votes.
On 3 August 2011, Finland's deputy Prosecutor-General, Jorma Kalske, condemned politicians in Finland for using racist hate speech to appeal to voters, pointing out that it is illegal to openly discriminate against minority groups.
Finland's Ombudsman for Minorities, Eva Biaudet, has expressed concern about hate speech both online and offline in Finland. According to Eva, the law should come down more heavily on hate speech and anonymous comments should not be published in online discussion forums. The use of pseudonyms should be limited to exceptional cases.
The president of Finland, Tarja Halonen has also expressed concern about hate speech and hardening attitudes in Finland.
Others who have spoken out include Finland's Culture and Sports Minister, Paavo Arhinmäki and Foreign Minister, Erkki Tuomioja.
These are just a few of the many people of good conscience who have spoken out on behalf of voiceless immigrants in Finland - many of whom cannot speak for themselves due to language barrier.
The True Finns, a far right-wing political party that is gaining followers, has come under fire for spreading hate. The party's members of parliament make no secret of their extreme views about immigrants and Muslims. One particular Member of parliament for the party, Jussi Halla-aho (see photo), has come under fire in the wake of the politically motivated July 2011 Norwegian killings.
Jussi Halla-aho has been on the headlines in Finnish media and has been described by Helsinki Times as "the most articulate immigration critic in Finland today." Helsinki Times reports that the Member of Parliament "isn't afraid to make comments that many people describe as incitement to hatred."
Hate speech and racism has no place in a free and democratic society. The authorities in Finland should keep an eye on growing right wing extremism, championed by extremist elements of the True Finns. Those who incite racial hatred and use hate speech to score political points should be held to account.
In 2009, Jussi Halla-aho was fined 330 euros for defamation of religion. A charge for inciting racial hatred was overturned.
Tougher sanctions should be considered to stop incitement of hatred against Muslims, immigrants and other vulnerable minority groups in society.
Photo of Jussi Halla-aho: YLE.
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