Nationalism in Great Britain

Throughout much of history, Great Britain has used its strong nationalism to colonize territories throughout the world. In the modern day, however, Britain has a different issue to face. Rather than worrying about the worthiness of their colonies to rule themselves, Britain instead needs to worry about its own worthiness to do so. Because Britain’s feeling of unity has changed from being classified as unionism to pure nationalism and exceptionalism, and English nationalism on its own is at an all time high, Britain feels confident moving into a Brexit future. 

Since the beginning of the process of Brexit, Britain has become progressively more nationalistic. In July of 2020, Boris Johnson declared that there is no border between Scotland and England. This is an example of an action that proves Britain’s general sense of unity has developed recently. For most of its time, Great Britain has been considered unionistic, or ‘many countries within one nation’, meaning they share some policies but each government still has a certain control of its people. Since slightly before Brexit, scholars are defining Britain’s sense of unity as more nationalistic than ever before. Governments seem to no longer be able to define what exactly Great Britain is, and British politics are more likely to target policies that aren’t ‘British’. Britain, therefore, has become focused on being the same throughout, or nationalism, rather than accepting differences between the countries but still having unity, or unionism. Michael Keating, a Professor of politics at the University of Aberdeen, claims that Great Britain “has a demos, the British people; a telos, that we agree on what the constitution is; an ethos, what they call British values; and a principle of sovereignty…so unionism, which was never a nationalism, has become a nationalism.”. To this end, Britain’s sense of self and exceptionalism has grown so much that it has caused it to want to separate itself from the larger power of the EU. Great Britain’s nationalism has grown directly alongside the viewpoint that “Britain can do what it likes because it is freedom loving and, well, simply a “better country.” This exceptionalism has led Great Britain to believe that it can fend for itself on the global economic stage, even if that is not necessarily true. Many British exceptionalists believe that any economic compromise or deal to come from Brexit would be unacceptable. Therese Raphael, in a opinion piece for Bloomberg, claimed: “The government’s position is that leaving without a trade deal will have only short-term costs, that these will be minuscule in the context of the pandemic and that people will shrug them off because they’ll ultimately still be getting the freedom they want.” Many English exceptionalists see their self image as more important than keeping a stable economy. Boris Johnson, the prime minister of the UK, has exemplified this ideology in his rhetoric throughout the past few years. Together, Britain’s nationalism and exceptionalism have led Great Britain to leave the EU and become a more independent entity. 

Great Britain is not alone in its growing nationalism, in fact, many attribute Brexit largely to a growth in English nationalism. Given the fact that Scotland wanted independence, it is not unlikely that Wales and/or Northern Ireland would want the same, leaving England as an independent nation. For that reason, many English nationalists are seeing a chance for English independence and are in strong support of Brexit. In a poll done in 2016, researchers found that the more someone identified as “strongly English” the more likely they were to be in support of Brexit. English nationalism stems almost entirely from politics, which means England wants to preserve its political practices more than its cultural identity. Unlike other countries, many of England’s cultural identities are global standards – from the English language to Shakespeare – so it’s not a huge concern that those aspects of culture might ever be lost. Because English nationalism stems mostly from politics, there is an even stronger want for political independence when it comes to Brexit. Between British nationalism, overall exceptionalism, and English nationalism, Great Britain is leading a steady charge ahead to Brexit and complete independence.

The Rise of Nationalism in Modern-day France

From the French Revolution onwards, France has been a country that values nationalism over other identities, including religious matters. To value religion over French identity is seen as regressive, a willing refusal to adhere to the principles that “define French identity and values.” France has long since valued a secular lifestyle, banning religious symbols such as large Christian crosses, Jewish kippahs, and, notably, Muslim headscarves from schools and public areas. This ban, which has disproportionately affected Muslim women, has led to a long, nasty tension that alienates France from its Muslim inhabitants.

Muslims make up 5.8% of the population of France, totaling 3.7 million people, the majority of which are migrants, and that number is estimated to continue growing. So, how should France help immigrants from a different culture adapt to the French way of living? According to leading officials, the answer is to regulate religious attire to aid assimilation. “The Republic lives with its face uncovered,” the government declared after two women wearing burkas were arrested in 2011. These policies have led to protests and general outcry from Muslim women in France. Halima, a woman who was detained by French police for protesting the ban on headscarves, gave her opinion on the subject in an interview in 2011, saying: “This is the first time I’ve ever protested over anything. I’m not in favor of the niqab, I don’t wear it myself. But it’s wrong for the government to ban women from dressing how they want. Islamophobia is on the rise in France. First, it’s the niqab, then they’ll ban the jilbab, then it will be plain headscarves outlawed.” While it hasn’t gotten to that point yet, this slippery slope remains a possibility in the debate between religious freedom and French nationalism.

Over the years, there have been clear instances where Muslim women have been targetted and harassed, particularly women wearing headscarves. If anything, these bans have exacerbated tensions between France and its Muslim population. Yetto Souiriy reported in 2013 that she felt like an outsider at her children’s school and even in her everyday life in France: “France now seems to be stoking a kind of anger against Muslims. You hear of women having their headscarves pulled off at the market. Even parents at my child’s school look at me differently since I was excluded from trips. I had a lot of hope for the left in France, but in terms of discrimination, nothing has changed. Even in shops, I’ve had people say: ‘Take off your headscarf. You’re only wearing it to be aggressive.’” Hafida Ouhami, a social worker in France, reported: “So I take off my headscarf each morning when I arrive at work, and put it back on again when I leave. It’s a bit like taking off part of my personality, but that’s the law. I’m uncomfortable about politicians now pushing a debate about whether headscarves should come off in private companies and for childminders. It feels like pushing things to the extreme. It feels as if we’re not welcome to be ourselves anywhere.” So, if these bans make so many uncomfortable, why are they still upheld by law?

Countless French leaders have justified these bans, creating further cultural tensions. While the ban may have been to aid the assimilation of immigrants into the French way of living, it appears to have done the opposite, only heightening tensions instead of absolving them.

While French Muslims argue that the ban infringes upon their freedom of religion and expression, many officials oppose this by saying the ban is to create a secular community, one that is undivided by religion. However, the line between ‘secular’ and ‘Islamophobic’ is very thin. While President Emmanuel Macron has been careful to discuss Islamic extremist attacks and incidents separate from the greater Islamic majority in France. Other leaders have not been so careful.

Anne-Christine Lang, a representative member from Macron’s party boycotted the National Assembly when the person to deliver the next testimony wore a headscarf. Later, she was quoted saying: “I can’t accept that inside the National Assembly, the beating heart of democracy, we will accept someone turning up in hijab.” This clearly goes beyond a wish to uphold French nationalism and unity, as her words go so far as to imply that a headscarf is the opposite of democracy.

Yet, when the French Senate voted to pass the bill banning headscarves in public areas they described it not just as a matter of nationalism or Islamophobia, but as a matter of women’s rights as well. “The ruling laid the foundations for the perception that this religious garment is not only fundamentally anti-feminist but also foreign to French culture,” the Senate announced. This is by no means a simple issue with two opposing sides. Some are fervent in their beliefs that Islam does not belong in France. Others believe that banning burkas is a slippery slope that oppresses religious freedom and freedom of expression. Yet, more view the issue as a matter of the oppression of women’s rights in western Europe. The one unifying result of these arguments is an increasing fissure of tension and hostility between the Muslim community and France.

Standing up to Serbia in the Balkans

From 1992 to 1995 there was a war in Bosnia and Serbia after Yugoslavia broke up. This war was fought with the goal to have only one ethnic group in Serbia. The Serbs instigated the war, wanting their ethnic group to dominate the Balkan region. In 1995 the United States and NATO stepped in and forced the three groups, Bosnians, Coats and Serbs to come to a peace agreement, known as the Dayton Peace Agreement. This ended the war and gave Serbians the right to self-government in Bosnia while still giving the other two ethnic groups, Bosnians and Croats power through self government. 

However, in Bosnia and Herzegovina, a majority of the ethnic population is Serbian, which was a change from before the war where it was a majority of Muslims. The Serbian officials here do not represent the other two ethnic groups, the Bosnians and Croats, which has continued to make ethnicity a subject of great importance to them. It has also made life more difficult for people of those groups because of the ethnic divides, and many have felt unwelcome in the places they grew up or currently live in,  and many have expressed the desire to leave

Recently Serbians have been trying to gain more control in the Balkans once again. They have been doing this by trying to combine Serbians who live in Bosnia and Herzegovina with Serbia itself in the hope of expanding Serbia. Serbia has additionally been expanding their military, and they have the backing of Russia. While there was a high possibility for peace in the future for the Balkans, Serbian nationalism has brought them back to a potentially rocky future. Serbia’s end goal is to control the entire Balkans area to create a “Greater Serbia”. They are doing this by spreading chaos, creating more tension, and calling on Serbians to refuse to listen to government officials in their own countries. 

In 2008 Kosovo split from Serbia, declaring their independence after they won the Kosovo war which allowed them to become independent from Serbia. Due to the Serbians living in Northern Kosovo, Serbia has tried to regain control in that area and they have done this by spreading nationalistic ideas, propaganda, and they have built a wall separating the Serbians in North Kosovo from the rest of Kosovo, which was later taken down by the government. Serbia refuses to recognize Kosovo as separate from Serbia and has recently sent a train into Kosovo that caused quite a stir. A train that was going from Belgrade to Kosovo had “Kosovo is Serbian” written on it along with other Serbian nationalist phrases and was stopped at the border between Kosovo and Serbia. This was the first train that was meant to travel from Serbia to Kosovo since the Kosovo war. It was supposed to boost peace and work to strengthen ties and unity between the two peoples. However, it just caused more tension between them due to Serbia’s strong nationalist views. Kosovo has been working to try and keep peace with Serbia and to dissolve tensions but the Serbians lack of respect for Kosovo’s freedom has justifiably upset them. When the government officials stopped the train the Serbian government was not pleased with this action, as their goal was to increase tension throughout Kosovo, and when they heard that the train was stopped they threatened to send in their army.

 The United States has tried to help ease tensions between Serbia and Kosovo, they proposed a deal which states that both places will work together economically. This proposal was aimed at gaining Serbian recognition of Kosovo but President Aleksander Vucic said “There is no possibility for me to sign any document that implies the recognition of Kosovo, and I have clearly said that to both the Albanians and Americans.” Nationalism in Serbia runs deeply. Aleksandar Vulin, the Defense Minister of Serbia, even said that the Serbian government “will defend Serbs wherever they live,” and they have proved that this along with similar sentiments are true. However, Serbia, like a lot of other Balkan countries, has been trying to gain membership into the European Union. Because the EU would frown on Serbian aggression, this could put a halt to Serbia’s nationalist expansion. This might lead to peace and recognition between Serbia and the other Balkan countries. Only time will tell for sure.  

Did Viktor Orban Sell His Soul for Power?

As nationalism creeps back into the modern world, Europe’s intense antisemitic, anti-immigration, and anti-LGBT history is finding its way back to the surface. The face of most Hungarian nationalism is the power-hungry Prime Minister of Hungary, Viktor Orban. Orban has been the prime minister of Hungary since 2010. He was also Prime Minister from 1998 to 2002. He has also been President of Fidesz, his ruling conservative political party, since 1993. Viktor Orban is known for turning Fidesz from a radical liberal party to a far-right conservative party. According to Orban, “In today’s Europe, it is forbidden to speak the truth. Immigration brings crime and terrorism and endangers our way of life, our culture, our customs, and our Christian traditions”. Viktor Orban has an increasingly nativist and authoritarian government, through which he shows his opposition to minority groups through his autocratic leadership style.

An example of this is his persistence in attacking George Soros. George Soros is a Jewish man born and raised in Hungary. He is an incredibly successful investor and philanthropist and is also the founder of Central European University. He is also sometimes referred to as the “Boogeyman” of the far-right movement. In his efforts to eliminate diversity and democracy from Hungary, Prime Minister Orban forced C.E.U. out of Hungary and into Vienna in late 2019. The university promoted democracy and liberal ideas in a region where those ideas are suppressed by fascism and communism. “Under Viktor Orban’s autocratic rule, no independent institutions are tolerated,” said Kim Lane Scheppele, a professor of international affairs and sociology at Princeton. “So it was only a matter of time before Orban’s attention turned to C.E.U.”. Mr. Orban is quick to protect his strict conservative values. 

Mr. Orban has recently restricted the independence of the courts and Hungary’s prosecution service. Now, almost all of the Hungarian media is now under the control of allies beholden to him. Under Orban’s rule, election laws have been written to favor Fidesz, a Hungarian socialist party (Orban’s ruling party), and opposition parties are constantly scrutinized by state authorities. As Mr. Orban has continued to gain control over Hungary, his government has stepped up attacks against critics. It has demonized immigrants, LGBTQ+ members, curbed academic freedom, and criticized international structures such as the European Union, posing them as threats to Hungarian sovereignty. Orban has also recently passed legislation that revokes the rights of LGBT citizens and allows him to use state money to benefit loyalists because of the relaxed oversight of the spending of government public funds. A family is now defined as having a man as the father and a woman as the mother, also making it more difficult for single parents to adopt. Mr. Orban, much like other leaders in Europe, has also begun more attacks on LGBT community members, generalizing them as an enemy of the good Christian values of the state. Orban’s influences have caused a rise in homophobia as well as anti-semitic values in Hungarian citizens. “Orban constantly changes the rules to the game,” said Akos Hadhazy, an opposition lawmaker. “Hungary is sure to receive massive subsidies from the E.U. over the next two years, which will make it easier for the prime minister to issue payouts to those who serve him.” 

In a survey done in November 2019, 42% of Hungarians were found to have antisemitic views, making Hungary one of the most anti-Semitic countries in Europe. According to the survey over 3 million Hungarians have anti-Semitic views. A lot of Hungarian respondents also said that “Jews think they are better than other people and that they don’t care about what happens to anyone but their own kind.”  71% of Hungarians answered that “Jews have too much power in the business world”, 67% that they have “too much power in international financial markets”, and 51% that they have “too much control over global affairs”. Most respondents also truly believe that Jews are more loyal to Israel than to Hungary. 

One question often asked is how Viktor Orban and his ruling Fidesz party have gained so much support towards their nationalist goals. Orban’s pride in his nation has allowed him to avoid accusations about his corruption. Also, the apprehensiveness of the opposing party has allowed Orban to gain domination. Hungary’s recent rise in discriminatory nationalism can be attributed not only to Orban’s tendency to continue to grasp for more power but his constant brainwashing and manipulation of the people into action.