Since the True Finns (Perussuomalaiset) - a far-right anti-immigration political party with strong views on Islam and the eurozone - made shocking gains during the April 2011 parliamentary election in Finland, there have been concerns about growing racism and intolerance in the Nordic country. Some have argued that racism is not a problem in Finland, but a recent poll published by Helsingin Sanomat on 12.11.2011 debunks this argument and reveals that racism is in fact "bubbling up." Most Finns who participated in the poll said there is "much" or "fair amount" of racism in Finland.
According to the poll commissioned by Helsingin Sanomat, majority of Finns (two-thirds) see Finland as a racist country.
The results of the poll, as reported by Helsingin Sanomat, Finland's leading daily newspaper, reveal that supporters of the True Finns are "most willing to concede negative attitudes toward minorities".
Minority groups most affected by racism and intolerance in Finland are Somalians, Muslims in general and the Roma. The Roma, a minority group with a long history of discrimination in Europe, are "disliked" the most, according to the poll.
The April 2011 parliamentary election in which the True Finns made huge political gains was a signal that more and more people in Finland are hardening their views on immigration and Islam, as well as their attitudes toward people who look different. This eyeopening racism poll adds weight to this concern.
However, all hope is not lost.
There are many voices of reason and tolerance in Finland. Many Finns of goodwill have spoken out against racism and expressly condemned intolerance in all its forms. This includes President Tarja Holonen who has repeatedly condemned racism and urged Finns to defend victims of racism. Prime Minister Jyrki Katainen has also taken a stand against racism in the name of immigration policy. He has expressed concern that "fundamental values" are being called into question in Finland.
In the words of president Halonen, "our own everyday behaviour and everyday courage" are instrumental in the fight against racism.
Ordinary people should step up to the plate and say NO TO RACISM whenever it shows its ugly face - be it in a bus, bus stop, restaurant, school or workplace. Silence emboldens perpetrators.