VIENNA - Finnish lawmakers forced a right-wing deputy on Wednesday, June 13, to resign from an influential parliamentary committee after making derogatory comments on Muslims and immigrants.
"Although I consider the attack against me as unreasonable ... I don't want to unnecessarily prolong the circus generated by others," True Finns Party lawmaker Jussi Halla-aho said on his party's website, Reuters reported.
Halla-aho was forced to step down from his post as chairman of a parliamentary committee dealing with immigration and state security after making derogatory statements on Muslims and immigrants.
The MP was fined by the Supreme Court on Friday for posting comments on his blog in 2008 linking Islam to pedophilia.
The lawmaker was also fined for linking Somalis, who are a major immigrant group in Finland, with theft.
The court found that Halla-aho's posts qualified as inciting hatred against an ethnic group.
The court ruling said that hate speech does not fall under the protection afforded by the freedom of speech.
The True Finns Party rose from obscurity to become the country's top opposition group in last year's general election after focusing on criticism of European bailout plans.
But the party has since been hit by controversy with some members making hostile statements against Muslims.
Party lawmaker James Hirvisaari was fined for inciting racial and ethnic hatred after saying Muslims brought violence to Finland.
Another member, Teuvo Hakkarainen, was punished last year for using a derogatory word for blacks and mockingly imitating a Muslim call to prayer in an online video.
There are between 40,000 to 45,000 Muslims among Finland's 5.2 million population.
Islam was introduced to Finland by Baltic Tatars at the end of the 19th century.
Many believe that the lawmaker's derogatory statements left him unfit to serve in a committee dealing with immigrants.
He made the situation worse with his contemptuous statement in which he communicates that as a legislator he is above the courts, said Mikaela Nylander, chair of the Parliamentary group of the Swedish People's Party, reported the Helsingin Santmat daily.
This is not a question of whether or not he enjoys the confidence of his colleagues - this is about the status of Parliament as an institution.
Kimmo Tiilikainen, chairman of the Centre Party's Parliamentary group, agrees.
I hope that the Finns Party will consider Halla-aho's status, Tiilikainen said.
If they do not react in any way, it is a message to the Finnish people that the whole party and its Parliamentary group see themselves to be above the judiciary.
Finland's largest daily Helsingin Sanomat reported on June 1 that a poll it commissioned showed popular support for the Finns Party at 14.5 percent, down from 19.1 percent in the 2011 parliamentary election.For a Member of Parliament, particularly one who is the chairman of a committee that deals with matters that were the basis of the court's decision, his comments are inconceivable, said Jouni Backman, the chairman of the Social Democratic Parliamentary group.