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Finland considers swastika ban after racism scandals rock government

Finland considers swastika ban after racism scandals rock government

by host

A series of racism scandals within the new Finnish government has led to calls for a ban on the swastika and the hammer and sickle.

Ben Zyskowicz, an MP from the center-right National Coalition Party, told POLITICO: “It’s very difficult to find real … concrete decisions which can be made by the government or by the parliament … to fight against racism,” adding that is “a real problem.” But he said it is not enough to merely condemn racism, so legislation must be adopted to outlaw discrimination.

His suggestion is a ban on the use of the swastika and the hammer and sickle.

Zyskowicz’s proposition is part of a broader collection of ideas drawn up by a new working group to fight against discrimination and racism, set up by Prime Minister Petteri Orpo after several racism scandals involving his junior coalition partner the Finns Party. Orpo said he had a “zero tolerance” policy for racism and extremism.

The parliament is expected to vote on the working group’s proposal in early September.

Zyskowicz cited a demonstration in Helsinki in 2018 when police confiscated flags emblazoned with swastikas from neo-Nazis as an example of how the state should respond to such symbols.

“This government has been quite heavily pressured, by the press and even some politicians, so they have to make something more concrete,” said the chairman of the Finnish Holocaust Remembrance Association, Kimmo Sasi. He has lobbied to ban Nazi symbols for several years and backed the new plans.

Finland’s government has been in office a little over two months yet has faced three major racism scandals. After 10 days in office, the economy minister, Vilhelm Junnila, had to resign over Nazi comments. Deputy Prime Minister Riikka Purra later came under fire for making racist comments in online blog posts published in 2008, yet she did not resign. Then Junnila’s replacement, Wille Rydman, was revealed to have used racial slurs in private messages with his then-girlfriend.

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