Monday, March 23, 2009

Finnish fringes

Finnish fringes - supposed Islamists and Russia fans rally in Helsinki (photo from Wikipedia)

Sometimes if I get a late bus home, I see my friendly neighbourhood Salafi. Salafi-chic is a lot less common in Finland than it is in, say, parts of London so he sort of sticks out. He's a skinny white guy with a friendly and slightly goofy smile - but the rest is classic neo-Salafi: the straggly beard, the skull cap, the shalwar kameez, but crucially with mid-calf trousers, and of course some old army surplus jacket over the top. A bit Tora-Bora 2001 for my taste, but there's nowt as queer as folk and each to their own. He wears combat boots though, which I thought was missing the point as aren't Salafis meant to show their ankles to follow the Prophet's example? But ankles and Islamic jurisprudence are by the by - whenever I see him, I think of the Finnish Islamic Party and Abdullah Tammi.

You don't get more loony fringe than Tammi - who may or may not have been a neo-Nazi, communist, fireman, KGB spy, wife beater, entrepreneur and captain in the Red Army. And if that isn't an interesting enough life, now he most definitely is the leader of the tiny Finnish Islamic Party. The FIP aren't solely white converts, but they do seem to make up the majority of the party. The Finnish Muslims I know from more traditional immigrant backgrounds seem to treat them with polite scepticism at best.

Tammi along with some other FIP guys were protesting today outside of the Helsingin Sanomat offices in Helsinki - but it wasn't their protest. Oh no. They were there with the "Nashi", the Russian, pro-Putin and sort of ultranationalist youth outfit - more famous for chasing and harrassing ambassadors in Moscow from countries they don't like, such Estonia and the UK. Now the Nashi don't really seem to be mad at Finland, their fire is directed at Estonia, but for reasons you need to read the news story to see if you can work out (because I'm not sure if I fully do), it was more convenient to protest here.

The jist of it seems to be that those who criticise the Soviet Union are really just criticising the Russia of today, and they are doing this because they are fascists. All the breakaway states from the USSR - like Estonia - are full of Russia-hating fascists. It's a rather silly argument, but then the Nashi are a populist youth movement so perhaps expecting much more would also be silly. But anything to do with Russia can bring the 'interesting characters' out of the woodwork in Finland - Johan Bäckman being one such. He appears to think that the anti-Russian sentiments prevalent in the Baltics are being imported to Finland. This strikes me as odd as you really don't have to dig very far to find Finnish anti-Russian sentiments. Why they would need to be imported from Estonia escapes me. Bäckman is a member (founder member I think) of the Finnish antifascist committee that seems to be more interested in criticising the Baltic "apartheid regimes" and supporting Russia than the more normal sort of Antifa activities like rucking with skinheads. All very odd.

What Tammi is doing there is anyone guess (beyond the stated protesting for better recognition of Muslims in Estonia - if I was an Estonian Muslim [or should the be the Estonian Muslim], I'd be running in the opposite direction from Tammi's 'support'). I suppose he couldn't get much more weird in the eyes of the Finnish public. But for a man who has praised bin Laden, turning up at a Nashi protest, an organisation that lionises Putin - the destroyer of Grozny, is strange to say the least.

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