True Finns’ party chair Timo Soini has accused Finnish politicians of using the Norwegian terror attacks to link his party to hate speech and extreme opinions. Soini wanted to make clear that he does not accept violence, and observed that hate is a destructive force.
After the Norwegian attacks, which were grounded in anti-Islam and anti-immigration sentiments, many politicians have wondered why Soini did not condemn hate speech directed at immigrants.
The man who has confessed to the Norwegian attacks, Anders Behring Breivik, opposed the European Union and immigration policies, and mentioned True Finn MP Jussi Halla-aho in his manifesto. Soini does not believe that the connections to True Finns are significant.
“We’re talking about an individual fanatic, a psychopath and his murders,” argued Soini.
Among others, Foreign Minister Erkki Tuomioja has said that the True Finns now had reason to separate themselves from extremists. Soini countered that Finnish politicians should learn from Norway how to cope with a difficult situation.
“I understand that this topic has caused turbulence in Finland as well, but in Norway the tragedy has been kept in proportion quite nicely,” said Soini. “The tragedy has not been made a political bone of contention there, all the parties have come together to help their people through a difficult time. Politicians are not blaming each other, or demanding statements from each other there.”
Tough talk comes from online personas
After the Norwegian attacks, criticism of online hate speech has come from many quarters. Now, a week after his last YLE interview in which he condemned the latest EU bailout of Greece, Soini has done the same.
“It is clear that I do not accept violence or threats of violence,” noted Soini. “Hate is a destructive force, which first destroys the target of the hatred and then the hater himself. I do not accept hatred. It is dehumanising and brutalising and damages others’ human dignity.”
There is clearly a group within the True Finns’ that uses tough anti-foreigner language, for example on the Homma internet forum. Soini does not accept that everyone who voted for the True Finns in the last election can be branded anti-foreigner. He also advocated the use of real names in online discussion to promote a more moderate tone of debate.
Soini denied visiting the Homma forum, saying that he was too busy for that, but argued that it should be possible to criticize immigration without being accused of hate speech.