The newly elected Finnish MP Hussein al-Taee of the Social Democratic Party of Finland (SDP) is facing a wave of criticism this week for comparing Israel to the Islamic State, antisemitic rants against Jews and pro-Iranian regime advocacy.
The Finnish-Kurdish blogger and civil rights activist Anter Yasa told The Jerusalem Post that on Sunday, he first revealed the antisemitic Facebook posts allegedly written by al-Taee, who is also an enthusiastic supporter of the Islamic Republic of Iran. Speaking from Helsinki, Yasa said “I am pretty sure all of the posts are real and al-Taee has confirmed his antisemitic statements.”
Dr. Efraim Zuroff, the head of the Jerusalem office of the Simon Wiesenthal Center, told the Post on Sunday, “This guy [Hussein al-Taee] is obviously an antisemite.”
Zuroff said al-Taee’s comments raise questions about how he could be elected to parliament and how the NGO Crisis Management Initiative (CMI) can employ him.
According to a screenshot by Yasa and reviewed by the Post, al-Taee wrote about Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg in 2012, saying, “Jew doing what a Jew does best. F***s up everybody to gain everything.”
Al-Taee told the Finnish News Agency STT, “I want to apologize for comparing Israel to ISIS, because the comment was simply stupid and it does not in any way represent my opinions or values.”
Zuroff dismissed al-Taee’s apology as “facile” and said al-Taee’s rhetoric is “hardly the way to resolve any conflict” with respect to his work for CMI. The antisemitism expert Zuroff added it is hard to understand how al-Taee “can be a member in good standing of the Finnish social democrats or any member in good standing” of any social democratic party.
When asked if al-Taee is an antisemite and if CMI plans to fire him, Elina Lehtinen, a spokeswoman for CMI, wrote, “Be sure that you want to start this correspondence, and with what volume.”
The CMI Executive Director Tuija Talvitie wrote the Post by email after publication.
”CMI unequivocally condemns all inappropriate and derogatory comments about any ethnic, religious, national and other groups,” Talvitie wrote. “Hussein al-Taee’s antisemitic statements are absolutely unacceptable, as we have publicly stated. Hussein al-Taee was officially appointed a Member of Parliament of Finland on 23 April 2019. As of that time he ‘de facto’ no longer works for CMI. We do not have further comments at this point.”
ITAI REUVENI, director of communications and outreach for the Jerusalem-based NGO Monitor, told the Post, “We have previously documented the role of CMI’s partners in BDS [Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions] campaigns against Israel. At a time when antisemitism is on the rise, it is unfortunate that a prominent NGO like CMI is failing to show basic accountability. We call upon CMI, its government donors and the SDP Party to condemn these antisemitic expressions and take steps to prevent a recurrence of such hate.”
Al-Taee, who is of the Shi’ite faith, immigrated with his family from Iraq to Finland in 1993 as a 10-year-old boy. Al-Taee’s father was the former governor of Najaf in Iraq.
One of his alleged social media posts shows advocacy for Iran’s clerical regime. He wrote, “Iran: Defending Palestine in the name of Islam. Supplying Iraq in the name of Shia sect. Negotiating a nuclear deal in the name of the Persian people. When will the Arabs learn to use their hats [sic] like that?”
Al-Taee’s Facebook post shows a cartoon over an Iranian mullah hovering over a representative of the kingdom of Saudi Arabia. The Saudi stands on piles of US dollars while the Iranian mullah stands above books labeled culture, technology, history, politics, philosophy and economics.
Yasa, who also runs the association for secular immigrants of Finland, said al-Taee’s writings are “Iranian propaganda.” Yasa said al-Taee presents himself as a “feminist, liberal guy that is a completely different person according to his screenshot posts.”
Antton Rönnholm, Secretary-General of the Social Democrats, wrote the Post by email, “You will also find articles in the Finnish media that report that Mr. al-Taee has already apologized for his previous comments and made clear that he does not share the view nor the choice of language in the postings that he to an extent could recognize as his own.”
He added “SDP as a party has considered this important as we accept no discrimination based on gender, ethnicity, religion etc. Mr. al-Taee has also shared his apology in the parliamentary group.”
Al-Taee did not immediately respond to a Post press query.
After Yasa disclosed the Facebook posts by al-Taee, Finland’s major news organizations started to report on the growing scandal surrounding al-Taee’s writings.
Yasa wrote that al-Taee “also disparaged Sunni Muslims, Kurds and homosexuals. Finnish media doesn’t want to listen to me.”
Kenneth Sikorski, a Helsinki-based writer who has written extensively about radical Islam and antisemitism in Finland, noted in an upcoming article for the Gatestone Institute, “Successive Finnish governments could be accurately described as extremely ‘blue-eyed,’ especially during the last decade or so in their relations with Iran.”
“Part of the problem seems to lie with Finnish politicians who truly believe that having a dialogue – any dialogue, regardless of who is on the opposite side of the table – is better than having no dialogue at all,” he wrote. “So you can easily end up with the equivalent of a businessman trying to reach an agreement with Al Capone.”
“This kind of approach in international politics is not without its apparent pitfalls,” Sikorski added. “It is bound to be capitalized on by the less scrupulous. When it comes to states such as Iran, ‘the world’s top state sponsor of terrorism,’ you simply cannot deal with it as you would with Finland’s immediate neighbors. Doing so would most likely come at a high cost.”