Right-wing Nationalism is Creating Ripples in the World

Author Name: Maham S. Gillani       11 Dec 2020     Global view

A few decades ago, right-wing nationalism unleashed by Hitler in Germany metamorphosed into an extremist ideology of hatred and subjugation of the ‘other’. It ultimately led to the bloodiest war of the century killing over a million people and reducing the world’s largest cities to a rubble. Now, after less than a hundred years to the global catastrophe – WWII – unleashed by Twentieth Century right-wing nationalism, the phenomenon is rearing its head in different parts of the world again. It is impinging upon democratic values and having grave repercussions around the globe. Pakistan must not be deemed an exception in this regard.

Right-wing nationalism has imperiled democracy in Europe. Some of the largest and most developed states in Europe have witnessed the rise of right-wing nationalism in the recent past. For instance, Freedom Party of Austria, French National Party, Norwegian Progress Party and Swiss People’s Party have been gaining traction in Europe. Another example is of Viktor Orbán, a right-wing nationalist, who won a landslide victory in Hungary to become the Prime Minister of Hungary, a central European state. Prevalence of right-wing nationalism in Europe has shrunk space for liberal values. A rallying cry of right-wing nationalists is placing restrictions on immigrants. By the same token it not only leads to curbing of freedom of movement but also leads to ‘otherization’ of the minorities. Thus, it is evident that right-wing nationalism is denting democracy and having serious implications for the rest of the world.

The predicament goes beyond Europe, US – a country that considers itself the protagonist of democracy has also been marred by rise of the right-wing nationalism. The erstwhile US president Donald Trump had a pivotal role to play in fanning right-wing nationalist discourse in the country. Notwithstanding his divisive politics, it was the extreme polarization in the American society that paved the way for his victory and defeat of Hillary Clinton – a Democratic candidate. People of colour, minorities and LGBTQ+ saw their civil liberties being undercut in the last four years as US became a less tolerant place to live in. Therefore, it is evident that right wing-nationalism hampered the progress of democracy in the US.

Moving on from the US to Asia where right-wing nationalism dovetails poverty, human rights violations, and deep-rooted rivalries with neighboring countries has had an especially colossal impact on democracy. A case in point is India dubbed the largest democracy in the world where right-wing nationalism has spawned vigilantism and mob violence against the Muslims. The right-wing Modi government in India is trumpeting and propagating the corrosive message of hatred against the minorities. Public lynching of Muslims and Dalits at the flimsy excuse of eating beef or slaughtering cows paint a dismal picture of eroding democracy in India.

Resurgence of right-wing nationalism in Europe, the US and Asia is reverberating throughout the world. For instance, the sentiment against immigration has grown by leaps and bounds. Most advanced nations are becoming skeptical of immigrants and, as a corollary they are introducing stringent immigration policies. Furthermore, polarization in societies has increased leading to ‘us vs them’ discourse and ‘in-group vs out-group’ sentiment. This has underpinned feelings of alienation among minorities. Minorities feel sidelined by the majority communities because of right-wing nationalism.

Right-wing nationalism has also provided impetus to ethnocentrism – a sociological phenomenon that posits that people hailing from one culture consider their values, beliefs, and norms to be superior to others. Right-wing nationalists hold their culture, traits, and values to be inherently loftier than cultural ethos of other nations. By the same token, they consider inferior the value system that is different from theirs. For instance, most Westerners regard their value system as liberal, pluralistic and tolerant, but are loathe to the cultural ideals of Muslims which they regard as primitive, regressive and imbued with violence.

Moreover, one of the more serious fallouts of re-emergence of right-wing nationalism is placement of restrictions on foreign goods and ipso-facto jeopardizing world trade. A case in point is the US where one of the reasons for trade war with China was right-wing nationalist rhetoric. It is for the same reason that right-wing nationalism in New Delhi also accounts for abysmal volume of trade between India and Pakistan.

Additionally, right-wing nationalism could also undercut world peace. Right-wing nationalist discourse could turn vitriolic in the event of a conflict with another country and pressurize the incumbent government to take extreme measures. A manifestation of this is the Indian Prime Minister, Modi who was compelled by the right-wing Hindu nationalists to seek retribution on Pakistan after the Pulwama attack. The Balakot strikes led to nuclear brinkmanship, endangering global peace.

Pakistan is also not insulated from the cascading effects of rising right-wing nationalism around the globe. It has given impetus to right-wing Islamist parties in the country. These politico-religious organizations have benefitted from the global anti-Muslim discourse – an invariable consequence of right-wing nationalism. It has aided their propaganda machinery against the West to win support of the gullible masses.

Moreover, Pakistan’s animosity with India has grown acrimonious because of right-wing nationalism. The atrocities against Muslims perpetuated by right-wing Hindu nationalists have outraged people in Pakistan leading to shrinking of space for dialogue and amicable relations with India.

To sum it up, right-wing nationalism poses a grave threat to world peace, prosperity, and democracy. Values of pluralism, diversity, inclusion, and human rights are the hallmarks of Twenty-first Century. The world must not take a reverse gear and fall prey to right-wing nationalism. The pragmatic way forward is to espouse the values of democracy in letter and spirit, and shed the ideology of hate, bigotry, and ethnocentrism.

Maham S.Gillani is a researcher at Centre for Aerospace & Security Studies (CASS). The article was first published in The Regional Times. She can be reached at cass.thinkers@gmail.com