Dawid Bunikowski | Gatestone Institute
The Tapanila gang-rape shocked the quiet Helsinki suburb, and all of Finland. Many wondered why these second-generation Somalis, citizens of Finland, would carry out such a savage attack.
The rapists were eventually brought to trial. One was sentenced to a year and four months imprisonment, two were given one-year prison sentences and two others were acquitted. Penalties were softened due to the age of the rapists.
“1,010 rapes were reported to the police in 2014, according to the Official Statistics of Finland. The number of suspected immigrants in these cases is about three times higher than of the suspected natives in relation to the population.” – Finland Today.
The criminal law prohibiting blasphemy seem archaic in the eyes of many Finns, especially after the attack on the French satirical magazine, Charlie Hebdo. Unsuccessful attempts to decriminalize blasphemy took place between the 1910s until the 1990s. For many critics the concept of prohibited hate speech is problematic: there is no clear definition, a lapse that leads to confusion and acrimony.
Finland — an open country that prides itself on respecting different ways of life, cultures and religions — is being greatly tested by the wave of Middle Eastern asylum seekers. Finland is a homogenous country that has roughly 5.5 million inhabitants, about 4% of which are foreign. In the last decade or so, Finland became international. Students came to study, foreigners came to live and work. Twenty years ago, thousands of Somalis came. Almost every Finn speaks English. The universities and the academia are of a high level. Being a schoolteacher is well paid and prestigious. But it is not easy for foreigners to find a job. The barrier is the language. Finnish, like Hungarian, is a part of the Finno-Ugric languages, and difficult.
How many asylum seekers from Syria, Iraq, and Afghanistan arrived in Finland in 2015? The figures keep changing. Authorities estimate some 30,000-50,000, significant in terms of the ratio of the incomers to the native population.
Multiculturalism in Law and Policy in Finland
Hate speech, “speech that attacks a person or group on the basis of attributes such as gender, ethnic origin, religion, race, disability, or sexual orientation,” (vihapuhe) is prohibited if such an act is a kind of ethnic agitation. For many (as for Jussi Kristian Halla-aho, the politician of the True Finns, a member of the European Parliament) hate speech is problematic: there is no clear definition, a lapse that leads to confusion and debates.
Regulations on blasphemy, “the act of insulting or showing contempt or lack of reverence for a God(s), religious or holy persons, or sacred things,” looks archaic in the eyes of many Finns, especially after the attack on the French satirical magazine, Charlie Hebdo. Finns believe that freedom of speech should be absolute. Unsuccessful attempts to deregulate blasphemy as a religious crime took place between the 1910s until the 1990s. In one extreme case, Halla-aho was fined in 2008 for making links between Islam and paedophilia on his personal blog.
In the context of immigration, illegal immigration is a crime. The current immigration situation in Finland is exceptional in nature. Muslims fleeing from the Middle East have opened up a humanitarian crisis the likes of which have not been seen in Europe in a long time. International public opinion and EU policy in the field are being tested. The current flow of Muslims through Sweden to northern Finland is chaotic, beyond whatever rules are in place.
According to the Ministry of the Interior, “Finland is an open and safe country” and has therefore developed a framework in which to understand migration to Finland. “The Strategy views migration as an opportunity: mobility creates international networks and brings with it new ways of doing things. Migration will help to answer Finland’s dependency ratio problem, but at the same time, competition for workers between countries will increase. To succeed in this competition, Finland must be able to effectively attract skilled workers who will stay in the country for the longer term. As a responsible member of the international community, Finland is committed to providing international protection to those who need it.” The ministry also adds, “everyone can find a role to play” and “diversity is part of everyday life.”
Government officials have taken this strategy personally. Prime Minister Juha Sipilä attracted the attention of the international media last autumn when he offered his second home in Kempele, near Oulu, to refugees. He reiterated the value of mercy and compassion in the context of immigration.
While the Finnish government can produce liberal policies calling for more open-mindedness towards immigration, real politics eventually come into play. When it came time to vote in Brussels on the EU’s quota system on refugees and their relocation in EU countries, Finland abstained.
The prime minister’s center-right, ruling political party, Keskusta, is EU-pragmatic but also sceptical. The second most powerful political party, Perussuoamalaiset (True Finns), is known for its anti-EU, anti-immigration and anti-Muslim rhetoric; its leader, Niko Soini, is the Minister of Foreign Affairs. The seeming political partnership between Keskusta and the True Finns exemplifies a powerful point on Finnish democracy, in which what is apparently important is consensus.
Prior to last year’s election in Finland, the True Finns website stated: “Finland is not to make everybody happy in the world. Finland should take care of the Finns first.” The slogan explains much about the seemingly contradictory domestic and international immigration policies of the Finnish government.
The people of Finland have also commented on their government’s stance on immigration by ousting of former Prime Minister Alexander Stubb in the 2015 election. The President of the Republic, Sauli Väinämö Niinistö, said in February 2016 that international commitments are treated too seriously and Finland does not the control the process of immigration. Niinistö’s comments were deemed politically incorrect and censored from public television for two days.
Among the Problems: Rape
With all of Finland’s talk of multiculturalism and immigration, what has spurred both the government and the public into shock? New narratives about the corrosive effects of both multiculturalism and the immigration of asylum seekers have become visible in the media. They discuss the increase in unemployment; the cost of mounting social benefits during the decline of welfare state; problems in educating foreigners; issues of assimilation with culture of the majority, which respects Western and Finnish values and a secular, liberal and open society – all different from traditional Muslim values.
Anyone today can claim he is an asylum seeker from the Middle East.
In Finland, more and more cases of Finnish girls and women being raped by asylum seekers are now greatly highlighted. Much of Finnish society seems shocked, embarrassed and angry because of the increase in rape cases by asylum seekers. These events have provoked many nationalists and led to the establishment of a paramilitary movement known as the Soldiers of Odin. Members of the movement view themselves as Finnish patriots, roaming the streets of Finland, protecting against Muslim immigrant offenders.
Members of the paramilitary movement known as the Soldiers of Odin view themselves as Finnish patriots, roaming the streets of Finland, protecting against Muslim immigrant offenders. Critics accuse them of being far-right, and they may de facto be related to previous skinhead movements from the 1990s.
The Tapanila Rape
One of the first rape cases that shocked Finnish society was the so-called Tapanila rape. On March 9, 2015, five males raped a young Finnish woman near the Tapanila railway station. The rapists were of Somali heritage and between the ages of 15-18. According to reports, the Somalis boarded the same train as the woman and began harassing her. They followed her off the train and, under the cover of darkness, brutally raped her in a nearby park. They were immediately caught.
The Tapanila rape shocked the quiet suburb, which lies on the outskirts of Helsinki, and all of Finland too. Many were left wondering why these second-generation Somalis, citizens of Finland, would carry out such a savage attack?
When news of the attack first came to light, it was published by a far-right website and discredited by many in Finland as false. However, authorities soon confirmed the rape and uproar ensued.
According to an article published by Finland Today, the Somali community was afraid that its members would be unfairly suspected of being criminals and racist attacks would increase. However, the article also noted that “1,010 rapes were reported to the police in 2014, according to the Official Statistics of Finland. The number of suspected immigrants in these cases is about three times higher than of the suspected natives in relation to the population. There is no unambiguous answer to why this is the case and is yet to be researched.”
The rapists were eventually brought to trial. One was sentenced to a year and four months imprisonment, two were given one-year prison sentences and two others were acquitted. Penalties were softened due to the age of the rapists. Prosecutor Eija Velitski called the sentencing “embarrassing.” The social impact of the attack spread far and wide.
The Kempele Rape
A second attack, the so-called Kempele rape, was met with a reaction by the prime minister himself. Kempele is a small town of roughly 15,000 inhabitants, located near Oulu. It is more famously known for its innovative entrepreneurs and high levels of overall satisfaction and happiness of its residents.
On the evening of November 23, 2015, a 14-year-old girl was walking home and passed through a part of the unfinished railway station. A man of “foreign origin” appeared and approached the girl. She recognized him as a 17-year-old immigrant from Afghanistan. The girl was raped by the 17-year-old and was later found by chance by locals walking through the area.
A police dog led authorities to a nearby refugee reception center for underage asylum seekers. “The police dog patrol followed the tracks of the suspects, which led to an apartment. From the apartment, the police caught two men who are now suspected of aggravated statutory rape and aggravated child sexual abuse,” the police said in a statement. Police could not immediately interrogate the suspects because a qualified interpreter was unavailable. The 17-year-old denied any involvement in the attack and the second suspect was eventually freed.
The Kempele rape caused a social and legal outrage in Finland. Seppo Kolehmainen, the National Police Commissioner, admitted after the attack that Finnish authorities had received reports of disturbances, physical altercations, thefts and inappropriate treatment of women from in and around the reception center.
The Soldiers of Odin
The Tapanila and Kempele rape cases became fertile ground for Finnish nationalists. The Soldiers of Odin are accused of being far-right and may de facto be related to previous skinhead movements from the 1990s. Their uniform is all black attire and their symbol makes reference to the ancient Viking god, Odin.
According to their Finnish Facebook page (their website has been taken down), the Soldiers of Odin blame “Islamist intruders” for the “uncertainty, lack of safety and crime in Finland.” The current wave of Muslim immigration means increased crime and the disintegration of Finnish society. The nationalist movement believes the police have lost control and keeping order on the streets is now up to them. Preventing Muslim immigrants from committing crimes, especially rape, is one of their main priorities.
The Soldiers of Odin recently expanded their patrols to the city of Joensuu in Eastern Finland. Paradoxically, the National Police Commissioner expressed his support for this type of self-organized behavior by the Finnish people. Some liberal Finns have accused the commissioner of racism and have demanded his dismissal.
Next for Finland?
Many Finns are scared of the consequences of the latest wave of immigration. Due to the political correctness dogma and their own national character, most Finns abstain from officially expressing their concerns. Finland is a peaceful society, but now the curtain of silence and political correctness is fractured.
Finnish law allows for a framework in encouraging all to live together despite cultural or ethnic difficulties. However, the law can only go so far. Finns are now demanding action. The government must “do something” to show that Finland is still safe and immigration is limited.
Dawid Bunikowski, has a Doctor of Law (Nicolaus Copernicus University). He teaches at the University of Eastern Finland (Law School), is an Associate in Cardiff Centre for Law and Religion (UK).
 There is also a minority of the Swedish-speaking Finns (about 5% of the population), as well as a Russian minority (about 1.5%). For five centuries, Finland had been occupied by Sweden (by 1809). Later, it was a part of the Russian Empire (until 1917).
 The victory of two EU-sceptic parties over the EU-enthusiastic and pro-immigrant Kokoomus party says much about the feelings of injustice felt by the Finnish public. But while Stubb’s Kokoomus joined the governmental coalition with Soini and Sipilä, its position is weak. Today, the Finnish government is at a crossroads. Tensions are running high and beginning slowly to fracture the nationalists, led by Soini’s party.
Source: GATESTONE INSTITUTE