Throughout his Presidential election campaign, Donald Trump meticulously built the anti-immigrant rhetoric, playing on the fears of Americans who have felt that the unbridled immigrant sprawl across the country’s landscape has been an increasing threat to national security. Trump held a majority of Mexicans responsible for being “rapists” and “bringing crime” into the country. At the same time, he called for a “total and complete shutdown” of Muslims entering the United States.
Trump’s ascent cannot be dismissed as an anomaly. His rhetoric of fear against the other became immensely popular among a nation that was growing tired of immigrants robbing their jobs. Across the globe, particularly in Europe, right-wing political parties have aligned their campaigns with the intolerant ideology Trump has rigidly advocated. Like Trump, far right wing parties in France and the Netherlands are couching their respective countries’ staggering economic instability and unemployment into anti-immigrant discourse.
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Encyclopedia of Politics: The Left and the Right, notes that throughout history, international crises like “The Great Depression, World War II, and the Cold War facilitated the rise of powerful right-wing movements.” The sharp climb of rigid right-wing parties across Europe, United States and other regions across the globe is a reflection of this.
The year 2015 witnessed an unprecedented surge of asylum seekers spilling into European countries, Australia and the United States among others, during the massive refugee crisis. The countries’ open welcome to the refugees created a stir among many hardline conservatives, triggering the emergence of highly bigoted, racist narrative within Europe, loud enough to drown out liberal voices. Several right-wing parties came forward demanding that Europe close its doors on Muslim refugees. Far-right voices began surfacing more prominently when across several nations across in Europe, the atmosphere of political correctness became overpoweringly stifling. Espousing Trump’s transparent anti-immigrant ideology became a strong propeller for conservative, populist parties, which helped them gain considerable headwind.
Today, the world is seemingly swinging far-right. Brexit is considered by many as the card that knocked the first chip in the so-called right-wing domino effect. The UK Independence Party (UKIP) spearheaded a campaign that underlined UK’s unwillingness to accommodate immigrants. That factor played an important role in UK’s exit from the European Union. The verdict led David Cameron to immediately step down from the position of Prime Minister. This theme of stalling unfiltered diversity and securing national identity is reverberating across Europe.
France has been nurturing and displaying similar feelings of resentment against Muslim immigrants. The Paris terror attacks led to the emergence of palpable Islamophobia that resulted, among other things, in France placing a ban on the burkini—an outfit that supposedly represented a threat to France’s national identity. In April 2017, France is going to hold its elections. Unsurprisingly, far-right Front National Party has been experiencing unwavering popularity. Riding the anti-immigrant wave, its leader Marine Le Pen –who has called the Burkini a “fundamentalist uniform”– advocated Trump’s views and declared, “We, too, are keen on winning back our freedom. We want a France that is the master of its own laws and currency and the guardian of its borders.” Le Pen, interestingly, called herself, “Madame Frexit”.
Before the elections in France however, Austria which has functioned as a route for migrants into Germany, will hold its elections in December this year. Unemployment and the rising fear of ‘the other’ has catapulted the Freedom Party into the limelight. The Freedom Party, which since its birth had been a marginalized party shoved into the periphery for notoriously holding a racist, intolerant ideology (its first two leaders were former SS agents), is today gaining traction. In fact, the Freedom Party’s Presidential candidate, Norbert Hofer’s voice appears to be resonating with the views of a majority of Austrians who seem to hold refugees in disdain. The candidate has promised to fasten the Austria’s border against immigrants and proposing that Austria should adopt a burqa ban. Many have compared Lugar to United States’ President-elect, calling him “Austria’s Donald Trump”, and rightly so, because Hofer once admitted to carrying a gun as a “natural consequence” of unfiltered immigration.
Hofer is not the only politician to be identified as Trump’s doppelgänger. Netherlands’ far-right Party of Freedom leader, Geert Wilders is reckoned to be adopting Trump’s ideology. Wilders is known for calling a complete “de-Islamification” of Netherlands, while making proposals to ban mosques, other Islamic symbols as well as the Qur’an that “endorses jihadist terror”. In a speech that was given a week after the Brussels attacks, Wilders vehemently called out the ruling liberalists who had, in his eyes, kept the Dutch borders wide open for Muslim immigrants, saying that, “We have imported a monster, and this monster is called Islam. Everyone who refuses to acknowledge that Islam is the problem, is partly responsible for all the current misery.”
Other European countries like Sweden, Poland and Iceland are also swerving right. The anti-immigrant rhetoric however, is stealthily creeping outside the European Union border. In Australia, far-right One Nation Party leader, Pauline Hanson was elected as the Senator in Australia’s recent federal election. The Party has enjoyed immense electoral popularity by running a campaign against Muslims immigrants living in Australia.
In Hanson’s first speech as the Australian Senate, she strongly called for halting Muslim immigration and banning the burqa. Almost half of the Australian population (49 per cent, according to a poll conducted by Essential Research), supported Hanson’s proposal to ban Muslim immigrants. “If you’re not prepared to become Australian and give this country your undivided loyalty, obey our laws, respect our culture and way of life, then I suggest you go back where you came from,” Hanson said in her speech, calling out to refugees. Stating that the culture and ideology that the Muslims embraced were incompatible with theirs, she said, “In addition, no more mosques or schools should be built, and those that already exist should be monitored with regards to what they are teaching.”
There are several countries that are tilting in favour of far-right hardline parties. Alarmingly, all these parties unapologetically champion racism. While earlier, several of these countries enjoyed a more liberal, tolerant and comparatively unruffled political atmosphere, the sharp shift in the political leanings tipping on xenophobia speaks volumes of the prevalent political landscape across the globe today.