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Tragedy in Norway sparks heated political debate in Finland

Parallels seen between world views of shooter and some Finnish politicians - calls for tougher gun laws


Tragedy in Norway sparks heated political debate in Finland Jussi Halla-aho
Tragedy in Norway sparks heated political debate in Finland Timo Soini
Tragedy in Norway sparks heated political debate in Finland Ville Niinistö
Tragedy in Norway sparks heated political debate in Finland Erkki Tuomioja
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The recent mass killing in Norway has sparked intense political debate on the proliferation of hate speech and racist rhetoric in Finland. Taking much of the heat has been the True Finns party; parallels have been made between the anti-jihadist views of mass killer Anders Breivik and certain elements within the True Finns who are vocally critical of what they see as lax immigration policy. True Finns MP Jussi Halla-aho has contributed material for a website that is seen as one of Breivik’s inspirations. The recent mass killing in Norway has sparked political debate on the proliferation of hate speech and racist rhetoric in Finland.
      The True Finns party has come under fire, with figures including Minister of Culture Paavo Arhinmäki (Left Alliance), Minister of the Environment Ville Niinistö (Green), and Minister for Foreign Affairs Erkki Tuomioja (Social Democratic Party) accusing the anti-immigrant faction of the party of fanning the flames of racism in Finland.
     
Niinistö emphasised that he is not accusing True Finns party leader Timo Soini of promoting hate speech, but he feels that as the leader of his party, Soini bears some responsibility.
      “He has accepted a situation in which there are groups under his wing who promote this kind of an extreme nationalist policy line.”
      Niinistö also took issue with views expressed by True Finns MP James Hirvisaari. In his blog, Hirvisaari wrote in the aftermath of the killings that with sensible immigration policy it would be possible to “ease tensions and to fight many problems, including such atrocities”.
      “This is a shocking example of how even a person who serves as a Member of Parliament can live in a bubble in which everything is the fault of Muslim immigration”, Niinistö said.
     
True Finns Parliamentary group leader Pirkko Ruohonen-Lerner responded to accusations, saying that unfettered debate on immigration needs to be permissible in Finland.
      “Freedom of speech must not be restricted by labelling all critical speech as hate speech.”
      Ruohonen-Lerner did not want to comment on James Hirvisaari’s views.
     
True Finns chairman Timo Soini himself emphasised in an interview with the Finnish Broadcasting Company (YLE) on Thursday that he does not accept hate. However, he also emphasised the need for free critical debate on social issues, such as immigration.
      Helsingin Sanomat was not able to reach Soini for comments on Hirvisaari’s blog.
     
True Finns MP Jussi Halla-aho has faced accusations that he has had close ties with the so-called counter-jihadist movement, which has been seen as a source of inspiration to the confessed killer, Anders Brevik. Breivik had gleaned elements for his ideology from a number of counter-jihadist websites.
      A recurring theme in the movement is that Muslims threaten to take over Europe in a few decades, and that the political left in Western countries is at fault for this.
      Halla-aho wrote on Wednesday that he knows of the movement, and admitted that he occasionally reads the Gates of Vienna website, which is seen as something of a mouthpiece of the counter-jihadists.
      However, it was pointed out that Gates of Vienna has listed Halla-aho as a correspondent and translator. Also, Halla-aho’s own blog contains a link to Gates of Vienna.
     
Halla-aho, who was named chairman of the Administrative Committee of the Finnish Parliament, says that two of his articles have been translated into English and published on the Gates of Vienna website. One of them is on Finnish weapons legislation, and the other is on crimes committed by immigrants in Finland.
      The Administrative Committee, which Halla-Aho chairs, is responsible for dealing with legislation on immigration and firearms. Halla-aho has come out against tighter restrictions on gun ownership.
      Last week Halla-aho rejected calls from Social Democratic Party Secretary Mikael Jungner that he reconsider his chairmanship post. Halla-aho denounced Jungner’s call as a political move that “insults the victims in Norway”.
     
The tragedy in Norway has also led to calls for further toughening of firearms legislation. Minister for Foreign Affairs Erkki Tuomioja called for a ban on keeping firearms in private homes. In his view, weapons used for target shooting and hunting can be kept in supervised premises owned by registered organisations.
      Also coming out in favour of more restrictions on the use of guns was President Tarja Halonen.


Helsingin Sanomat


  1.8.2011 - TODAY
 Tragedy in Norway sparks heated political debate in Finland

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