Thursday, February 16, 2006

Cowardice strikes Finland

Since I arrived here several years ago I have become more and more impressed with the life Finns have carved out for themselves in this cold, desolate place and given a tiny population surrounded by hostile neighbours. I have been the arch-drumbeater for the success of the Finnish way. I was even considering getting Finnish citizenship.

Yesterday's news that Matti Vanhanen, supported by Tarja Halonen, apologised on behalf of Finland for the publishing on some unread right-wing Finnish website of the cartoons of Mohammed has bothered me a lot.

It was first and foremost an act of pathetic cowardice. I know Finns are used to appeasing those that threaten them and in the face of insurmountable opposition it was probably a wise move. The Islmaic threat is not insurmountable by any stretch of the imagination, yet Vanhanen felt it right to apologise on the behalf of myself and my family for something neither I nor him did. I was a gross misuse of his position.

It also sets a dangerous precedent for theother European leaders. Now the muslims will say "If Finland's government can apologise for their press, why can't the other nations? Does Finland have less freedom of speech than them?".

I think leaders should speak out. They should say "I am sorry for the offence caused and I condemn the pictures but I cannot prevent their publication. If it is against the law, then it needs to be taken to a court of law where the arguments can be heard. That is the meaning of democracy and the rule of law - the principle on which all civilised nations are founded." Vanhanen actually chose to apologise rather than offer his condolences even against advice to the contrary.

What saddens me more is that there is no outcry in the press. There was nothing about it in Helsingin Sanomat this morning (at least prominently). It seems the Finns have decided that in the face of a challenge to their values they think it's best to appease the extremists and the terrorists so they don't get angry rather than fight for what's right. These are sad times.

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