The Global Rise of Nationalism

Written by: McKenna Ross

Nationalism is an ideology which strongly identifies with one’s own nation and vigorously supports its interests, especially to the exclusion or detriment of the interests of other nations. Consequently, it is often equated with distrust of foreigners and a desire for greater immigration control. This ideology is on the rise around the world, spearheaded by the likes of Donald Trump in America, Nigel Farage in the United Kingdom, Prime Minister Modi in India, and President Bolsonaro in Brazil.

Last year, 25.9 million refugees existed around the world and a further 3.5 million asylum seekers because of persecution, famine, war, or any other number of reasons. Most of these people are hosted in countries such as Lebanon, Jordan, Pakistan, and Turkey; in fact, around 80% of refugees are hosted in developing countries. Still, anti-immigration rhetoric has been at the center of the global rise of nationalism in developed countries, who are taking on relatively small numbers of refugees.

Donald Trump won the American presidency based on a platform of anti-immigration and nationalism bordering on xenophobia, from proposing a wall to keep out Latin American immigrants or establishing a travel ban against people from majority Muslim countries. Trump is also known for his prolific tweeting on this issue. In one case, he argued that “[immigration] is an invasion of our Country.” This tweet in particular is referring to immigrants from Central and Latin America, but his hatred of immigrants also extends to other nationalities such as people from Middle Eastern countries. In another speech, Trump talked about establishing a database for tracking Muslim people in the United States, which several reporters haved remarked seemed reminiscent of the databases and registration used to track Jewish people in Nazi Germany.  

On the other side of the world, Prime Minister Modi of India is pushing for increased hatred of Muslims in the country. One of his advisors, the home minister of India, Amit Shah, has repeatedly called immigrants “termites.” In the context of this harsh rhetoric, hate crimes have risen in recent years. Hindu mobs have come to lynch dozens of Muslims, but the perpetrators are hardly ever punished. 

Europe, especially, has seen a rise of nationalism in recent years. This is exemplified by Nigel Farage, a prominent British politician known for his hate speech against immigrants. Farage was the originator of Brexit, which calls for a separation from the European Union. The European Union allows open immigration from countries such as Italy and Greece to the UK. In recent years, British citizens have become more and more susceptible to nationalist leaders because of disillusionment with the current government. They feel they are losing jobs and Farage places the blame on immigrants that only make it into the United Kingdom because of the European Union policies. He has linked an increase in arson and sexual violence with immigration when neither has any hard evidence to back up said claims. 

Other countries facing rising nationalism include France and Italy. France recently instituted a burqa ban that outlaws face coverings of any type, including head-coverings worn by many Muslim women. France claims the law is for public safety, but it reality it seems to be an attack on the Islamic immigrants in the country. The United Nations itself is concerned about the rising nationalism in Italy, mentioning specifically the laws attempting to strip asylum seekers of humanitarian rights and the increase in racist, xenophobic attacks in the country.  

Nationalism is also seen in the rhetoric of President Bolsonaro of Brazil. He recently pulled out of the U.N. Migration accord, saying that “not just anyone can come into our home.” Bolsanaro has defended anti-immigration rioting and thinks migrants should be confined to refugee camps. The rise of his far-right policies may even be spelling the end of democracy in Brazil. In the past, Bolsonaro has praised the past military regime in Brazil and praised the use of torture. These are not the actions of a man that aligns with democracy and so the rise of his politics in the government could mean less equality in Brazil. 

Nationalism can be found on every continent on earth, but seems to be concentrated in the more developed countries. A rise in this ideology leads to increased hate crimes and less help offered to refugees fleeing violence and death in their home countries. The world has seen mass shootings in New Zealand mosques, head covering bans in France, and shouts for a border wall in America. 

The rise in nationalism can be attributed to many different factors, but the most important factor is economics. A study by Foreign Affairs found that it is far-right, nationalist leaders that benefit the most from an economic downturn. Economic crashes are manmade and therefore have a cause that can be blamed. Far-right, nationalist politicians use this to gain power and turn the blame on immigrants. Citizens feel that they are being marginalized in their own countries, and nationalist leaders capitalize on these feelings of marginalization and turn immigrants into the scapegoat. They convince citizens that getting rid of immigrants and refugees means those citizens can reclaim their power. Couple a loss of working class jobs with an increase in immigrants, and nationalism has the perfect ingredients to gain power. In fact, it is not immigrants taking the jobs of natives, but an overall downturn in the economy and increased technology is making some jobs redundant. Immigrants can even bring jobs into the country they immigrate to by paying taxes and spending money on local goods and services. 

The world is turning immigrants into scapegoats and if people do not recognize this bias it can have deadly effects for minorities in many different countries. Bangladeshi people in India, Venezuelans in Brazil, and more minorities in America and the United Kingdom will be targeted. Allowing nationalism to grow is simply allowing for hatred of people different than ourselves. This anti-immigrant bias needs to be targeted in order to cleanse our governments of xenophobia.