The Police University College published this week its latest suspected hate crime statistics for 2019. It showed that while hate crimes, on the whole, had retreated a tad compared with 2018, 87.1% of all suspected cases were due to a person’s ethnic or religious background.
Other suspected hate crimes were due to sexual orientation (72 cases/5.7%), disability (44/4.9%), and gender identity (21/2.3%).
While we understand that these cases, like that of sexual assaults, are only the tip of the iceberg, the important question we should ask is how to challenge hate crime effectively.
This may be easier said than done since Finland is still living in denial about hate crime, hate speech, and racism.
Nobody has yet given a fair and honest answer to how Finland, with one of the best education systems in the world and whose laws are supposed to promote social equality, has seen the growth of an openly racist party called the Finns Party (PS).
If Finland’s second-biggest party in parliament is openly Islamophobic and turns a blind eye to far-right ideology among its ranks, should we be surprised that so little is being done politically to challenge a social ill like racism?
The biggest problem in the police service’s relationship with racism and different minority communities in Finland is the low priority of racism and lack of openness. Sometimes, one gets the impression that the police fear more the reaction of a minority community to what happened to a victim of its group than taking a public stand against hate crime.
Another matter that is a blow to police trust in resolving hate crime cases is time. Many who have reported racist harassment and threats understand that your case may take months to resolve. In such cases, the police may overlook the bias motivators in Jämsä of an asylum seeker.
Another case that received wide coverage in June was an eighteen-year-old Muslim, who was chased and physically attacked by locals in Teuva, a town in western Finland.
Even if the crime in Teuva happened in June, the police have not charged the suspects.
One of the question marks of the Police University College hate crime report is the low number of women compare with men victims. According to the report, 63% of the cases involved men and 37% women.
In countries like France, women are the most vulnerable, accounting for 81.5% of Islamophobic attacks. The corresponding figure for the Netherlands is over 90%, according to the European Network Against Racism (ENAR).
Seventy-nine percent of Muslims do not report their most experience of discrimination to any competent organization, according to ENAR.
Apart from revealing insensitivity to victims of hate crimes, it shows that Finland’s police service has a chronic diversity issue. Mostly white police officers, who have never faced racism in Finland, never mind been victims of hate crime, are reporting on this social ill.
Like the rest of white Finnish society, the police must understand that migrants, minorities, and especially people of color are equal members of society that may be equal on paper but lack equity.
We need concrete action. If this won’t happen, people will be numbers and nameless in a report.
For further information contact:
Enrique Tessieri, European Islamophobia Report Finland chapter author
+358 40 8400773
* Anti-Hate Crime Organisation Finland was founded in September 2018 and registered as an NGO the following month. The aim of the NGO is to tackle and eradicate hate crime and all forms of discrimination in Finland such as anti-Semitism, Islamophobia, Afrophobia, misogyny, and other forms of social exclusion through education and training, seminars, events, conferences, among others.