Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Ku Klux Klan in Finland?

The refugee crisis has tested European commitment to principles of human rights and humanitarianism, and revealed deep-seated racism in European countries, including Finland. Asylum seekers seeking safe haven in Europe routinely face protests and hostile opposition. Among all anti-refugee protests across the European continent during the recent refugee crisis, a protest in Finland featuring a protester dressed in the attire of the infamous Ku Klux Klan (KKK), a well-known racist, terrorist, anti-immigration and right-wing extremist movement with roots in the Southern United States, was perhaps the most alarming. Other incidents across Finland involving stones, petrol bombs, attempted arson attacks and "white power" vandalism bear stark resemblance to KKK antics in the American South during the movement's opposition to the civil rights movement.

On Thursday 24 September 2015 (breaking Friday) a bus carrying some 49 asylum seekers including children and infants to a reception centre in Lahti in southern Finland was, according to national broadcaster Yle, was confronted by protesters carrying Finnish flags and hurling fireworks and stones at the bus. One of the protesters was dressed like a KKK member - the only difference being that instead of holding the Confederate flag, the Klan-clad protester held the Finnish flag.

Yle reports that rocks were also thrown at workers of the Finnish Red Cross during the protest but no one was injured.

A short video of the anti-refugee protest in Lahti is available here

In a separate incident earlier that same night a petrol bomb was thrown at an emergency accommodation facility for asylum seekers in Kouvola. According to Iltalehti no one was hurt.

A few days after the bus carrying asylum seekers was attacked, the statue of a footballer in the same city of Lahti was dressed in KKK attire. The city reportedly made a police report. Surveillance cameras caught the incident, and according to the city's sports secretary there were apparently six culprits.

In another incident, asylum seekers' quarters in Kouvola was vandalized with swastikas and "white power" graffiti, according to Yle. There was another attempted arson attack at an asylum seekers' reception centre in Lammi. 

My view

First and foremost, the KKK is, without a doubt, a terrorist organisation that used violence and murder to make its case - like other groups like the Islamic State (ISIS). The KKK terrorized and lynched African Americans because of the color of their skin. Anyone dressed in the uniform of the movement at the time or nowadays is either an affiliated to the hate group or subscribes to its racist and violent ideology, and should be treated as such. Anyone dressed in a protest like a KKK member ought to be treated by the authorities and law enforcement in the same way as they would treat a protester holding, for example, the black flag of the ISIS. The KKK is not very different from the ISIS. Both use violence and murder to advance their causes. I have no illusion, however, that Finnish law enforcement would treat a white Lutheran young man dressed in KKK attire in the same way as they would treat a colored young man who displays ISIS symbols in a protest. In an ideal world void of discrimination and white privilege ISIS and KKK affiliates, I believe, would to be treated similarly. But it won't happen.

According to Yle, the KKK-clad protester was identified by police as a 19-year-old Finnish bloke with no previous crime record. His affiliation to any activist group is reportedly unknown. He is suspected of incitement against an ethnic group and desecration of the Finnish flag. 

Anti-refugee incidents in Finland involving petrol bombs, attacks on buses and KKK attire are hallmarks of racism in American South during a shameful period in American history. But despite all the flirting with KKK symbolism and tactics in modern-day Finland, I believe there's no active KKK branch in the country. However, I have no doubt that there're numerous individuals in Finland who share the right-wing extremist ideology of the KKK. There're racists in the country who believe in so-called white supremacy and white nationalism; there are groups and organizations in the country that although not officially listed as hate groups are, in fact, hate groups. Many of such groups consider themselves "patriotic" - but so does the KKK.      

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