London: A Finnish minister has become embroiled in a racism row after a newspaper published leaked text messages in which he described Somalis as “spreading like weeds” and called Middle Easterners “desert monkeys.”
The messages were sent by Minister of Economic Affairs Wille Rydman, who is a member of the right-wing Finns Party in the government coalition that took power in June.
Rydman sent the messages to his then-girlfriend Amanda Blick in 2016, when he was a 30-year-old MP.
Blick shared the material with Finnish newspaper Helsingin Sanomat after accusing Rydman of violence and harassment during their relationship.
In the leaked texts, he repeatedly uses Islamophobic language and denigrates Middle Easterners.
In one message, he sends a song to Blick, suggesting that it be used for student parties. The lyrics refer to a Muslim who travels to Europe and rapes a woman.
Rydman also suggested banning people who wear veils in Finland, rather than a ban on the religious item itself.
In response to Helsingin Sanomat’s publication of the messages, he claimed that Blick had attempted to defame him, threatening to launch legal action.
However, his party’s leader Riikka Purra said the messages were “inappropriate.”
Finnish Prime Minister Petteri Orpo said: “Even though they were private messages, we cannot accept this kind of language under any circumstances. No minister can tolerate racism in any form.”
He added that the country should send a message “to Finns and to the outside world that racism will not be tolerated in Finland.”