BY Vadzim Malatok
The populist actors oftentimes present policies in ways that are intended to have an emotional or fearful effect on the population. This approach adds more malleability to an already fluid ideology. As a result, the populist actors are able to adopt to the changing political landscapes and manipulate social issues to their own advantage.
The ability to present themselves as political chameleons have resulted in emergence of various populist actors that disagree with one another on a variety of issues. For instance, the populist radical actors point out at the dysfunctionality of Islam in the Occident and denounce uncontrolled immigration from the Middle East. In addition, they advocate for halting immigration and tightening border security as well as creating programs directed at immigrant assimilation, for the latter believed to help preserve European democratic institutions and principles. The extreme-right actors also share similar attitudes toward immigration from the Middle East but are of the opinion that immigrants, and in particular of the Middle Eastern origin, are incapable of integration and assimilation, which might further explain their opposition to globalization in general. There are also ultra-religious groups that do not berate Islam directly but maintain that liberal secularism and liberal democracy, which are prevalent in the Western world, engender Islamization of the European continent.
And although the above-mentioned groups differ in how to maintain European identity, they present Muslim migrants as the main contaminants of the European culture. But even the act of racialization itself has shifted from biological, as was conceived by the Nazis, to cultural suggests Pietro Castelli Gattinara in “Framing Exclusion in the Public Sphere.” This shift is significant in that it allows the populist actors to label migrants as ‘incompatible’ with Western values rather than ‘inferior’ to a particular ethnic group.
As a result of the fear of the cultural contamination, the Pegida movement emerged in 2004 in Germany. Similar to the most of the far-right populist actors, the Pegida views Islam as a “religion of conquest and submission,” though, unlike the other groups, it offers a great deal of freedom and flexibility to its participants, which can be attributed to the emergence of the ethno-pluralistic ideology and certain autonomous nationalistic groups that are self-governed and do not answer to any superior body.
In conclusion, the heterogeneity of the populist right-wing movement is evident upon considering their stance on migration, which also points to the shared similarities between them such as Islamophobia. As a result, most of these groups present themselves as “the last defenders of national interests.”