Earlier this week, Olli Immonen, a legislator belonging to The Finns, an anti-immigration political party that's part of Finland's ruling coalition, published an incendiary post on Facebook.
Written both in English and Finnish, the statement called on Immonen's countrymen to "defeat this nightmare called multiculturalism," describing it as "an ugly bubble that our enemies live in." The full post follows below.
I'm dreaming of a strong, brave nation that will defeat this nightmare called multiculturalism. This ugly bubble that our enemies live in, will soon enough burst into a million little pieces. Our lives are entwined in a very harsh times. These are the days, that will forever leave a mark on our nations future. I have strong belief in my fellow fighters. We will fight until the end for our homeland and one true Finnish nation. The victory will be ours.
Immonen is hardly the first ultra-nationalist European politician to inveigh against the dangers of multiculturalism. It's a watchword that, for far-right populists and even more moderate conservatives, has come to signify everything wrong with society -- from the erosion of traditional values to the means by which radical Islam can flourish in some communities in the West.
In various Nordic nations, far-right, populist political parties have in recent years made inroads at the expense of the traditional left, buoyed in part by concerns over continued immigration.
Finland is one of the less diverse nations in northern Europe. In 2010, only 250,000 people out of a population of around 5 million were born outside the country, according to government statistics. But that number is steadily growing.
Immonen's party is something of a rising force in Finland's politics. It got 17.7 percent of the national vote in elections in April, making it the second biggest party in Finland and winning it a place in the country's governing coalition. Timo Soini, Finland's current foreign minister, is the leader of The Finns party.
While Soini issued no comment about Immonen's declaration, other prominent Finns did. The post struck a nerve, in part because it came so close to the four-year anniversary of the massacre carried out by Norwegian far-right bigot Anders Breivik, who in his writings also fumed about the evils of multiculturalism.
"I want to develop Finland as an open, linguistically and culturally international country," tweeted Finnish Prime Minister Juha Sipilä soon after the post emerged. "I cannot accept Immonen’s remarks." His finance minister, Alex Stubb, said on Twitter that "Multiculturalism is an asset. That's all I have to say."
Erkki Tuomioja, a member of the Social Democrats, the main opposition party, was a bit more direct. "When multiculturalism and diversity are put into question it must be answered loudly," Tuomioja told Bloomberg News. "There is no such thing as a harmless hate speech, and it’s a short step from there to hate acts. It must not be tolerated."
The biggest response, though, came on Tuesday, when thousands of Finns gathered in Helsinki in defense of multiculturalism. Images and messages of solidarity appeared on social media under the hashtag #meillaeonunelma, or "we have a dream" -- a direct riposte to the beginning of Immonen's statement.
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