2020 / 12 / 19
Nationalism can be a good thing, argue some. “Research suggests that an inclusive, solidaristic sense of nationalism might help us attain those very goals: freedom, equity, welfare“, says Prerna Singh, author of (How Solidarity Works for Welfare: Subnationalism and Social Development in India).
Nationalism can certainly have its positive points, but history taught us that for all positives associated with nationalism there have always been negatives as well. Nationalism is behind the political system that promotes ‘the nation’ at the expense of others, leading to exclusionary, prejudiced attitudes and hostility towards others, including people from the same nation who may not share similar views and principles. Ultimately, nationalism has the potential of becoming a destructive political force, driving the world to conflicts, chaos, instability and presenting fertile ground for extremism. Nationalism was behind modern genocides from Nazi Germany to the Rwandan Civil War of 1994 which killed 800,000 people mostly from the minority Tutsi tribe.
Terrible atrocities committed by fanatics, in the name of God, are blamed on religious zeal. Extremist beliefs are zeal and extremist actions are reactions to zeal and profound convictions. Zeal is also a major element in nationalism with serious consequences. It was English nationalism that drove the British decision to leave the European -union- in 2016, commonly referred to as Brexit, and today, the UK -union- itself is threatened by the Scottish National Party’s surging obsession for independence. Nationalist zeal should never be underestimated even if it is-limit-ed in size. Back in 2014, radicals in the Ukraine - a minority estimated at 10,000 - took thousands to the streets steering deadly protests. Every form of zeal is dangerous, whether it is religious´-or-nationalist, as British author Frances Hardinge has put it, “Zeal was like gas, most dangerous when you could not see it. The wrong spark could light it at any time.”
Nationalism comes in a variety of forms and it is not always secular. Religious nationalism has been roiling politics. In Poland, intolerant Catholic nationalists advocate Catholicism as the only true religion and proclaim the superiority of Poles over other nations. Muslim radicals tighten their grip in countries like Pakistan where Islamic nationalism emerged as a major force at the end of British colonial rule using Islam as a shared political identity. And although Turkey is officially a secular nation, it has been experiencing a new wave of nationalism characterized by deep attachment to Turkish identity and Islam and scepticism towards the West, highlighted by recent decision by the government to -convert- the renowned Hagia Sophia, an ancient Orthodox Church and a UNESCO World Heritage, to a Muslim place of worship. Meanwhile, recent violence against Syrian refugees and Kurds in Turkey highlights the rise of Turkish authoritarian nationalism and its attitudes towards non-Turkish minorities.
Right-Wing nationalism also remains a great danger to peace in the world. Voter support for right-wing and populist parties is on the rise across Europe with National Front (FN) leader Marine Le Pen competing against Emmanuel Macron in the 2017 French presidential election. And In 2017, in Germany, the far-right Alternative for Germany (AfD) made its way to the Federal Parliament for the first time taking 12.6% of the vote, becoming Germany’s biggest opposition party. In Spain, the far-right made huge gains in the country’s 2019 general election. It took 52 seats in Congress, becoming the third largest force in parliament. Today, nationalism has picked up strength and speed as a result of the corona virus crisis with citizens looking to national governments for protection and support, and governments taking action to try and reduce the spread of the virus, including stepping up control over the borders´-or-shutting their frontiers all together.
Today, apart from religion, one of the most important causes of division, war and violence in the world is nationalist sentiment. Nationalism is simply another form of extremism dividing people, causing distrust and fuelling violence and bloodshed across the globe, reflected in civil wars, territorial ambitions and genocide from Yugoslavia to Cambodia. Nationalism remains a serious threat to international peace and security and as such it needs to be rejected. Our common values, our shared humanity, our vision of the future, our loyalty and our solidarity must be global and international, aiming at achieving peace, stability and harmony for mankind across the world.