Posts Tagged ‘populism’

June 1st, 2017

Is the “native” secular?

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Stand With Standing Rock Nov 11-15 2016 | Image via Flickr user Leslie PetersonHeadlines scream of burgeoning populism around the world, but the shift in politics today could also be described as a return of nativism, and perhaps even of a certain indigeneity. Politicians speak of a people at home in a land, rooted in that land. They evoke the threats posed by those perceived to lack such roots: immigrants, racial minorities, and global elites.

There is a romance to the land, from rural farms and mines, to the provincial village, to the post-industrial city—sites  of lost dreams, of vanishing greatness. The specifics of place are joined together under the heading of “nation,” but nation alone is cold and abstract; it must be joined with the warmth of nativeness—indigeneity—to capture the imagination. Of course there are agents involved: politicians conjuring the images and feelings of nativeness, and the powers that be—whiteness, patriarchy, neoliberalism—whom those politicians serve, wittingly or unwittingly.

May 19th, 2017

A State of suspicion: Counter-radicalization in Norway

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Norwegian rally against ISIS and the Prophet's Ummah, August 18 2014. Photo: Sindre BangstadAt the national party congress of the governing populist right-wing Progress Party in Norway in May, the assembled party delegates adopted resolutions calling for state control of Norwegian mosques in the name of preventing “radicalization into violent extremism.” The Progress Party (FrP) also adopted resolutions calling for the Norwegian state to introduce compulsory Christian prayers in public schools, for a national ban on the wearing of the Islamic headscarf (the hijab) for pupils under the age of sixteen in public schools, and for a national ban on circumcision of male children. In other words, the run-up to the Norwegian parliamentary elections in September 2017, which will make it clear whether the right-wing coalition government of the Conservative Party and the populist right-wing Progress Party will fall or be returned to power, is in full swing.

And as it has since the mid-1980s, the FrP will run this parliamentary election campaign on a platform of a politics of fear and division—targeting immigrants, in general, and Muslim minorities, in particular.

December 20th, 2016

Religion and the new populism

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Light trailThe push for stronger cultural identities and political borders in the new populism is inseparable from the general concern about Islam and immigration. Most of the new populists are promoting a one-sided criticism of Islam. This is connected to the public fears of terrorism, angst about Sharia, the status of women in Muslim communities, demographic tensions (aging European populations with lower birth rates and younger immigrant populations with higher birthrates), and issues surrounding the social integration of immigrants. In this context, talk about the Jewish and Christian heritage of the West has reemerged in secular Europe and in the United States as an alternative identity-forming heritage. . .

In light of this religious and political discourse today across the Western world, there is a need to have an open discussion about this idea of the Jewish and Christian heritage of the Western world. While some are using this concept to exclude others, the religious heritage of the West can actually be a positive resource for multiculturalism, peaceful social integration, and humanitarian aid.

October 11th, 2016

A new “Christianist” secularism in Europe

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Image via Flickr user Quinn DombrowskiThroughout much of the world, religion manifestly—and sometimes markedly—informs everyday understandings, cultural representations, and political and legal definitions of nationhood. The paradox I wish to explore, with reference to developments in Northern and Western Europe, is that religion also informs assertively secular understandings and discourses of nationhood—and not simply as their evident target, but as their putative foundation.

The categories “secular” and “religious” have deeply intertwined histories, and the Christian origins of the category “secular” have been amply discussed. My interest here is in the religious dimension of secularism, as a self-conscious, assertive political stance, and secularity, as a characterization of a culture or way of life.

October 4th, 2016

Why do evangelicals vote for Trump?

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Image via Flickr user Quinn DombrowskiThere are various interpretations of Trumpism on offer. Reading it as fascism explains its appeal to the white nationalists of the “alt-right.” Reading it as populism explains its appeal to a white working class fed up with the “Washington establishment.” And reading it as authoritarianism explains its appeal to voters with authoritarian personalities. These interpretations are not necessarily wrong, but they do not explain Trump’s appeal to evangelicals qua evangelicals.

So, let me propose a different interpretation. On this reading, Trumpism is a secular form of religious nationalism. By “religious nationalism,” I mean a form of nationalism that makes religious identity the litmus test of national belonging. By “a secular form of religious nationalism,” I mean one that strips religious identity of its ethical content and transcendental reference. In Trumpism, religion functions mainly as a marker of ethnicity.

September 27th, 2016

Religion and populism

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Saving the People: How Populists Hijack ReligionThis adapted excerpt is republished with permission of the publishers—Hurst in Europe; OUP in North America—from Saving the People: How Populists Hijack Religion, edited by Nadia Marzouki, Duncan McDonnell, and Olivier Roy.

Right-wing populist parties have become a major player in today’s public and political debates in Europe and the United States. The success of Front National in the 2015 local elections in France, the unexpected nomination of Donald Trump as the Republican candidate for US presidential elections, and the unexpected vote in favor of Brexit, show the growing influence of populist parties. In addition to their usual rant against elites and the establishment, these parties have made religion a central element of their repertoire. In the wake of the repeated terror attacks perpetrated by ISIS, they have insistently deplored the so-called threat of Islamization, and emphasized the need to reclaim the West’s Christian identity. This book examines the manner in which right-wing populist parties in a series of Western democracies have used religion in recent decades to define a good “people” whose identity and traditions are alleged to be under siege from liberal elites and dangerous “others.”

January 22nd, 2014

Politics and the “People’s Pope”

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Last Friday, Politico Magazine published an article on Pope Francis, his approval ratings, and ways that our President could learn from His Holiness’ example. Pope Francis was elected to the Papacy on March 13, 2013. Ten months later, we’ve begun to get a more detailed understanding of the man who is now, in some circles, being referred […]

September 2nd, 2010

Black crescent, white cross

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By now, everyone has seen the Newsweek poll indicating that a majority of Republicans believes President Barack Obama sympathizes with radical Islamists who would like to impose Shari‘a on the United States.  Certainly, political debates in America generally get fairly nasty whenever the defense of “the American way of life” is at issue.  And in America, such threats have had a long history of steering the popular imagination back to the question of race.  But this time around, the mixture is especially volatile, I think, because race is once again being stirred into a mixture with religion.