Monday, October 14, 2013

Dismissal of MP James Hirvisaari isn't enough for Finns Party

Lawmakers are supposed to be law abiding citizens -- citizens who respect laws enacted by a democratic parliament. But the populist Finns Party (Perussuomalaiset) harbors members of parliament who have been convicted and fined by Finnish courts for inciting hatred, and members who make no secret of their extreme nationalist and Neo-Nazi affiliations. The party decided to kick out only one of its numerous controversial figures.

The opposition Perussuomalaiset that seems to thrive on xenophobic, Islamophobic and euro-skeptic rhetoric finally fired James Hirvisaari, one of the most controversial MPs in Finland's parliament. On 3 October 2013 news broke that the party intends to formally expel the MP for anti-party activities. The party confirmed the expulsion of the controversial MP the next day.

He was stripped of his party membership after it was confirmed that he took a Hitler-salute photo of a friend of his who visited him in parliament. Hirvisaari's visitor - who has a long criminal record - made a Hitler-salute in parliament's gallery and the MP was the man behind the camera -- in an act of apparent endorsement of a distasteful pose. The photo taken by James Hirvisaari was later posted online and precipitated his ouster from the Perussuomalaiset parliamentary group.

In my view, taking a photo of someone making a Nazi-salute in parliament is despicable and irresponsible -- Hirvisaari probably agrees, that's why he sent an apology to the speaker of Finland's parliament. However, it is not the only outrageous thing MP Hirvisaari has done. Previous misdeeds include the following:
  • He incited hatred against Muslims and was convicted of hate speech.
  • He compared homosexuality to a disability.
  • He refused to sack an aid of his who suggested that non-Finns should wear Nazi-style armbands to help police easily identify them.
  • He wrote that people from certain cultures are genetically wired to be rapists.
  • He argued that Finland is for Finns and that refugees and immigrants are social security hunters.
I welcome the dismissal of James Hirvisaari by the Finns Party. In my opinion the MP should have been fired a long time ago. Failure to do so contributed to the damaged reputation of the Finns Party. Hirvisaari did many things that would have long earned him a one way ticket out of the party - if the party didn't tolerate racism and hate-mongering. Some of his controversial colleagues like Jussi Halla-aho and Teuvo Hakkarainen still enjoy the confidence of the Finns Party.

The expulsion of Hirvisaari is a move in the right direction, but it is not enough to clean up the Perussuomalaiset brand. There are still numerous racist elements in the right-wing party who make no secret of their racist views and extreme nationalist affiliations. Many immigrants -- and some Finns I have spoken with believe the Perussuomalaiset opposition party is "racist". It will take more than the dismissal of one controversial MP to repair a severely damaged reputation.

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