"Terrorism" in Suomusjärvi?

Tuesday, 16. June 2009     0 comment(s)

In recent weeks the United States that has had to reconsider the origins of political violence – “terrorism” for the want of a better word – after two murderous acts. Firstly there was the killing of Dr George Tiller, gunned down whilst attending church in Wichita, Kansas. Dr Tiller was one of the few doctors left in the United States prepared to carry out late-term abortions and had already been the victim of a gun attack by anti-abortion extremists in 1993. The second murder was of security guard Stephen T. Johns in Washington D.C. who died when a neo-Nazi attacked the Holocaust Memorial Museum. Since 9/11 American fears have focused on international terrorism, but these sad events show that political violence originating domestically has not disappeared.

Finland has been virtually immune to domestic political violence for well over half a century. This makes the bombing of the Red Cross asylum seeker reception centre in Suomusjärvi in southern Finland rather shocking, even though fortunately there were no injuries resulting from the attack. Nevertheless, according to Helsingin Sanomat: "Detective Inspector Pertti Läksy regards [the attack] as highly dangerous and liable to cause death if any people had been nearby." Presumably anyone willing to hurl an explosive device at a residential building of any type is willing to accept that injury or death might be the outcome; indeed it does not seem unreasonable to think that this was not the aim of such an attack.

Currently, the police are investigating the explosion as an act of "sabotage" and no arrests have been made - so the motives for the attack are still not known. It should, though, be remembered that hostels for refugees have been the target of violence elsewhere in Europe. A number of fire-bombing carried out by neo-Nazis in Eastern Germany killed many in 1990s and were particularly horrific crimes of this type.

If the police investigation does reveal a racist motivation to this incident, it would not be surprising. The politics of immigration has been a much discussed issue in Finland this year. Politicians of all types have said that it is time to stop ignoring difficult issues - although to what extent these issues have previously been ignored is open to question (see, for example, this brief survey of party opinions from 2005). But how these issues should be discussed is a difficult question. When immigration is addressed, even with the best intentions, as primarily a security issue or, with perhaps less honourable intentions, as one of "welfare bums", it is not surprising that fear and anger can result. And those emotions can lead to, at the very least, stupid and dangerous stunts of "sabotage" but possibly also to much darker acts.


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