Friday, November 14, 2014

Bleak, intolerant future for immigrants in Finland?

There's a feeling among some immigrants in Finland that despite numerous social difficulties they face there's hope for the future -- as young Finns are perceived to be more tolerant and likely to usher in a more inclusive society in the future. Studies however suggest a bleak future of racial intolerance in Finland.

Speaking at the Central Finland Future Forum conference, Sakari Suutarinen, an associate professor from the University of Jyväskylä, said, according to Yle, that an international comparison of 38 countries found that Finnish boys held the most intolerant views towards immigrants. The associate professor reportedly added that anti-immigration feelings among young people in Finland has hardened since the turn of the millennium. He criticized schools for not doing enough to get Finnish youngsters to openly discuss social and religious issues, and for separating Muslim and Christian students into separate religious studies classes. He urged schools to do more to encourage understanding.

Let me be clear: young people are the future. And studies showing the spread of racial intolerance among young people suggest a racist future.

In my view, growing racial intolerance is bad news for Finland. Young people normally represent hope -- hope for a more free, inclusive and advanced society that understands that hate begets hate, endangers everyone including the perpetrator, and inequality stunts economic growth by limiting the potential of a group of people. The toxic relationship between Israelis and Palestinians is a perfect example of how intolerance and domination of one by another puts both parties in harm's way.

The simple reality, which might be bitter for some to swallow, is that immigration cannot be stopped. There'll always be movement of people from one place to another. Intolerance cannot stop the trend. "Blind nationalists" should get off their high horse and realize that racism and intolerance might adversely affect some migrants, but for the most part it destroys the country they claim to protect.

Immigration and immigrants are here to stay, and many of them are hardworking and ready to contribute to the betterment of their host country. They should be given an opportunity to do so.

I believe, the future for immigrants and other minority groups in Finland is not bleak. Like many people, I share the view that racism is taught. Therefore, if racial intolerance is spreading among Finnish youth than youth in other countries it means, in my view, that racial intolerance is taught or learned more in Finland.

The good news is that if people can learn how to be intolerant they can learn how to be tolerant.

Besides, racially intolerant Finnish youth are a minority. At the Central Finland Future Forum conference, associate professor Suutarinen said in studies of school attainment, over 2 percent of young people in Finland said they are critical of immigrants and their rights. Although according to Suutarinen the 2 percent represents a sharp increase since the year 2000, I think it's still a very small percentage of Finnish young people.

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