First vice-president of the Finns Party Pirkanmaa district group Terhi Kiemunki took to Facebook on Sunday to post a series of comments about children whom she observed going door to door as part of the local tradition in which Easter witches visit homes to bless them in exchange for treats. The tradition has ancient roots in both Sweden and Karelia.
Seeing children dressed in hijabs engaging in the Easter tradition, Kiemunki asked on her wall, "Is this some kind of integration [programme] where Muslim children go around giving Easter blessings? Or does Allah also have some kind of anniversary today?"
"It’s a pity I don’t have any condoms …" she added, which some readers took to mean that she would have given them to the children’s parents.
"They didn’t come to us, it would have been funny to hear what kind of rhyme they recited or whether they would have just settled for 'Allahu akbar' (sic)," she also wrote.
The comments triggered a deluge of criticism, following which Kiemunki returned to Facebook to issue an apology.
"I just asked whether the Islamic faith has the same holy days as Christians. The comments have taken off since the discussion. It was wrong and thoughtless to use children in the comparison. I am sincerely sorry and apologise if I have offended people," she later wrote on the social networking site.
Kiemunki has also served on the party’s national council and its leadership board. She was also a candidate in last year’s parliamentary elections.
Kiemunki's boss to get a written undertaking that slurs won't happen again
Kiemunki’s boss, Finns Party MP Lea Mäkipää also took to Facebook to distance herself from her parliamentary aide’s comments.
"This is not acceptable. I don’t understand what was going through her head," Mäkipää wrote.
"I shall make her sign a document promising that something like this will not happen in the future. I don’t want to stir things up but these kinds of statements can’t be made at my expense at least," she added.
Mäkipää said that the comments felt especially bad because she was herself a mother and grandmother. However she said she wanted to give her aide another chance.
Mäkipää said she regretted the fact that she had also been stigmatised by the discussion.
Kiemunki under review by local party group
Tampere Finns Party MP Tiina Elovaara has called on the party leadership to eject Kiemunki from all positions of responsibility.
"Something must be done about this. I think [Kiemunki] has no reason to continue in leadership positions after this," she added.
Chair of the local party organisation Veijo Niemi said that the errant politician’s position as vice-president will be discussed at the next meeting of the district board at the beginning of April.
"It will come up for discussion at the next district board meeting and we will thoroughly review how to proceed in this matter. We will see if she has the confidence [of the board]," he remarked.
However MP Elovaara wants the party to get tough on this case.
"A line has been crossed. And unfortunately this isn’t the first time we have seen questionable actions from Kiemunki," she noted.
"I am calling on the Pirkanmaa district and the party leadership at the national level as well, to react to this with sufficient gravity, there can be no positions of responsibility after these kinds of comments," Elovaara insisted.
Party Secretary Riikka Slunga-Poutsalo condemned Kiemunki’s comments, saying that the local politician’s comments did not represent the party line.
"I am shocked, and I can’t accept that kind of thing. If someone is critical of immigration or wants to condemn immigration, children shouldn’t be involved in any way or at any point. They should be left in peace," Slunga-Poutsalo said.
She added that Kiemunki herself would now have to answer for her comments.
Yle Tampere was unable to reach Kiemunki for any comment.