Clashing Civilizations and Civilizational Identities in Populist Discourses

A special issue of Religions (ISSN 2077-1444). This special issue belongs to the section "Religions and Humanities/Philosophies".

Deadline for manuscript submissions: 30 November 2024 | Viewed by 25107

Special Issue Editor


E-Mail Website
Guest Editor
Alfred Deakin Institute for Citizenship and Globalization, Deakin University, Melbourne, VIC 3125, Australia
Interests: religion; populism; authoritarianism; secularism; securitization; Islam
Special Issues, Collections and Topics in MDPI journals

Special Issue Information

Dear Colleagues,

Populism is currently a part of mainstream politics several nations the world over. In different places, populism takes the form of political parties, political leaders, and social movements. At best a thin-centered ideology, and possibly a political style or type of discourse, populism cannot succeed as a form of political ideation on its own. Rather, it must always be adhered to a ‘thick’ ideological programme. Populism thus emerges in various left-wing and right-wing forms, and as more eclectic or centrist programmes. In each case, populist leaders argue that government elites are ignoring the interests of the people, or the majority population, claim themselves to be uniquely able to represent the popular will. However, the ‘thick’ ideology is required to provide the framework for defining the characteristics of ‘the people’ and ‘elites’, and for explaining why governing elites have failed the nation, or driven it to the point of crisis.

Recent scholarship has shown how civilizational notions of identity play a key role in supplying the framework—in part or whole—populists require to create a political environment in which they can achieve political and, in particular, electoral success. The use of civilizational rhetoric by populists has been noted by Roger Brubaker, who argues that a number of right-wing populist parties in Europe construe opposition between self and other not in narrowly national but in broader civilizational terms. While the idea, concept, social construction or phenomenon of civilization cannot be reduced to religion, in most cases, civilizations and religions are either linked very deeply or are framed as such. As a matter of fact, Brubaker’s argument has been strengthened by scholarship which demonstrates the increasing use of rhetoric among populist leaders in Europe defining national belonging in civilizational terms, and at times claiming that the Christian West and Islam are locked in a clash of civilizations. What is striking about European populist parties is that few could be described as ‘religious’ in any normal sense of the word, as embodiments of the ‘belonging without believing’ phenomenon, yet they have no trouble in identifying Europeans as belonging to Christian or Judeo-Christian civilization, and Muslims as belonging a wholly different and incompatible Islamic civilization, and justifying their anti-Muslim exclusionary politics on this basis.

There is little scholarship examining notions of civilizational identity among populist parties and their supporters beyond Europe, and the role they play in defining the rhetorical and ideological contours of populist politics. Yet, it is possible to identify a civilizational element in the rhetoric of Donald Trump, particularly during his campaign for President of the United States in 2016, in which he called America part of Judeo-Christian civilization, and claimed “Islam hates us”. Beyond the West, in Turkey, the ruling AKP combines populism with Islamism and a neo-Ottoman foreign agenda, in which the government positions Turkey as the leading nation of Islamic civilization, defines ingroups and outgroups via religious identity, and at times claims there is a clash of civilizations between Islam and the Christian West. It is possible to find civilizational rhetoric in populists in India, where a key premise of the Hindu nationalist philosophy of the ruling BJP is the revival of Hindu civilization and culture, and where the government increasingly claims Muslims are unwelcome foreigners. It is therefore possible, even likely, that civilizational identity plays an important role in identity construction among populists in many nations. Equally, there is clearly a relationship between religion and civilizational populism, but the exact nature of this relationship is unclear, and may differ across societies. The relationship between nationalism and civilizational identity in populist discourse and ideology also appears complex, and is likely to differ widely between populist groups and leaders, and across different societies.

This Special Issue therefore invites contributors to consider questions/topics which are not limited to, but inclusive of, the following:

  • The relationship between religion, civilization, and populism;
  • Populist identity construction and civilization, particularly in non-Western cases;
  • The relationship between national and civilizational identity in populist rhetoric;
  • Performative populism (gestures, emotional tone, imagery, visual politics and symbolism) and civilization;
  • Perspectives of the targets of civilizational populism: particularly religious minorities;
  • Responses to the growth of civilizational identity in populist movements and parties;
  • Ethnic nationalism and its relationship with civilizational narratives among populists;
  • The ‘clash of civilizations’ thesis and its use in populist discourse;
  • Use of digital technologies by civilizational populists.

Prof. Dr. Ihsan Yilmaz
Guest Editor

Manuscript Submission Information

Manuscripts should be submitted online at www.mdpi.com by registering and logging in to this website. Once you are registered, click here to go to the submission form. Manuscripts can be submitted until the deadline. All submissions that pass pre-check are peer-reviewed. Accepted papers will be published continuously in the journal (as soon as accepted) and will be listed together on the special issue website. Research articles, review articles as well as short communications are invited. For planned papers, a title and short abstract (about 100 words) can be sent to the Editorial Office for announcement on this website.

Submitted manuscripts should not have been published previously, nor be under consideration for publication elsewhere (except conference proceedings papers). All manuscripts are thoroughly refereed through a double-blind peer-review process. A guide for authors and other relevant information for submission of manuscripts is available on the Instructions for Authors page. Religions is an international peer-reviewed open access monthly journal published by MDPI.

Please visit the Instructions for Authors page before submitting a manuscript. The Article Processing Charge (APC) for publication in this open access journal is 1800 CHF (Swiss Francs). Submitted papers should be well formatted and use good English. Authors may use MDPI's English editing service prior to publication or during author revisions.

Published Papers (10 papers)

Order results
Result details
Select all
Export citation of selected articles as:

Research

12 pages, 272 KiB  
Article
Civilizational Fantasies in Populist Far Right and Islamist Discourses
by Susan De Groot Heupner
Religions 2023, 14(8), 966; https://doi.org/10.3390/rel14080966 - 26 Jul 2023
Viewed by 882
Abstract
The article examines the affective potential of populist civilizational discourse. It reflects on two prevalent, opposing, civilizational identities to render visible their shared fantasmatic grounding. With reference to far right and Islamist configurations, the article aims to reveal the hidden and disguised elements [...] Read more.
The article examines the affective potential of populist civilizational discourse. It reflects on two prevalent, opposing, civilizational identities to render visible their shared fantasmatic grounding. With reference to far right and Islamist configurations, the article aims to reveal the hidden and disguised elements of civilizational discourse that I contend give it affective power. Drawing on populist theory that centralizes antagonism in social identification, it examines the use of civilizational discourse in the performances of far right and Islamist parties, organizations, and individuals. I argue these civilizationist identities are defined by an obsession with a fantasmatic closure and homogeneity of social identities and civilization. Full article
19 pages, 359 KiB  
Article
Civilizational Populism in Domestic and Foreign Policy: The Case of Turkey
by Ihsan Yilmaz and Nicholas Morieson
Religions 2023, 14(5), 631; https://doi.org/10.3390/rel14050631 - 09 May 2023
Viewed by 1397
Abstract
This article investigates whether Turkish populism has undergone a ‘civilizational turn’ akin to what Brubaker, Haynes, Yilmaz, and Morieson have described occurring among populist parties in Europe and North America. The article applies Yilmaz and Morieson’s definition of ‘civilizational populism’ to Turkey under [...] Read more.
This article investigates whether Turkish populism has undergone a ‘civilizational turn’ akin to what Brubaker, Haynes, Yilmaz, and Morieson have described occurring among populist parties in Europe and North America. The article applies Yilmaz and Morieson’s definition of ‘civilizational populism’ to Turkey under the rule of the governing Justice and Development Party (AKP) in order to determine whether the party conforms to this definition. The article investigates how the AKP, an Islamist and populist political party lead by Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, has increasingly incorporated what we term ‘civilizational populism’ into its discourse. The article shows the impact of civilizational populism on Turkey’s domestic and foreign policy under the AKP rule. The article finds that the AKP has increasingly, and especially since the 2013 Gezi Park protests and the mysterious coup attempt in 2016, construed opposition between the Turkish ‘self’ and the ‘other’ not in primarily nationalist terms, but in religious and civilizational terms, and as a conflict between the Ottoman-Islamic ‘self’ and ‘Western’ other. Furthermore, the article finds that the AKP’s domestic and foreign policies reflect its civilizational populist division of Turkish society insofar as the party is attempting to raise a ‘pious generation’ that supports its Islamizing of Turkey society, and its nostalgic neo-Ottomanist power projections in the Middle East. Finally, the paper discusses how the AKP’s civilizational populism has become a transnational populist phenomenon due to the party’s ability to produce successful television shows that reflect its anti-Western worldview and justify its neo-Ottoman imperialism in the Middle East. Full article
18 pages, 363 KiB  
Article
Turks versus the West: Civilizational Populism in Turkey’s Ruling Coalition
by Gokhan Bacik and Serkan Seker
Religions 2023, 14(3), 394; https://doi.org/10.3390/rel14030394 - 15 Mar 2023
Viewed by 2130
Abstract
Civilizational populism is readily observable in Turkish politics. This study analyzes how the ruling political parties in Turkey (Islamist JDP and ultra-nationalist NAP) reframe extant civilizational ideas into a populist format to reproduce civilizational populism for ideological and pragmatic reasons. The research implements [...] Read more.
Civilizational populism is readily observable in Turkish politics. This study analyzes how the ruling political parties in Turkey (Islamist JDP and ultra-nationalist NAP) reframe extant civilizational ideas into a populist format to reproduce civilizational populism for ideological and pragmatic reasons. The research implements a two-level analysis of civilizational populism. On the first level, the article reveals the intellectual origins of the ideas on civilizations. On the second level, it analyses how these ideas are used by political actors in constructing populist civilizational discourse in daily politics. This methodological approach to civilizational populism shows that politicians use old ideas that are well-known by their supporters while framing them as their populist narrative. Thus, civilizational populism occurs in Turkey as a continuity. This study finds out that (i) Civilizational populism is a salient phenomenon proving how Islam and nationalism are socially and politically coded as friendly categories in Turkey; (ii) Political actors are the agents of populism but not the inventors of the many ideas they instrumentalize; (iii) Civilizational populism in Turkey is constructed on an anti-Western narrative which is essentialist and culturalist. Consequently, the article reveals that the culturist and essentialist critique levelled by other civilizations at Western political actors can be levelled similarly at the Muslim political elite. Full article
13 pages, 275 KiB  
Article
Hindu Civilizationism: Make India Great Again
by Raja M. Ali Saleem
Religions 2023, 14(3), 338; https://doi.org/10.3390/rel14030338 - 03 Mar 2023
Cited by 2 | Viewed by 2867
Abstract
Hindu civilizationism is more than a century old phenomenon that has been steadily gaining strength. Its recent amalgam with populism has made it ascendant, popular, and mainstream in India. This paper explores how Hindu civilizationism is not only an essential part of the [...] Read more.
Hindu civilizationism is more than a century old phenomenon that has been steadily gaining strength. Its recent amalgam with populism has made it ascendant, popular, and mainstream in India. This paper explores how Hindu civilizationism is not only an essential part of the Hindutva and BJP’s narrative but also the mainstay of several government policies. The “other” of the BJP’s populist civilizationist rhetoric are primarily Muslims and Muslim civilization in India and the aim is to make India “vishwaguru” (world leader) again after 1200 years of colonialism. The evidence of this heady mixture of civilizationism and populism is numerous and ubiquitous. This paper analyzes topics such as Akhand Bharat, the golden age, denigrating Mughals, Hindutva pseudoscience, and Sanskrit promotion to highlight the evidence. Full article
16 pages, 305 KiB  
Article
Buddhist Civilisational Populism in Sri Lanka: Colonial Identity Formation, Post-War Othering, and Present Crises
by Rajni Gamage
Religions 2023, 14(2), 278; https://doi.org/10.3390/rel14020278 - 20 Feb 2023
Cited by 2 | Viewed by 2148
Abstract
In this paper, I discuss the evolution of Buddhist civilisational populism in modern Sri Lankan politics and civil society. I do this by historicising early forms of Buddhist civilisational populism in the country, during its occupation by the British Empire (1815–1945). As I [...] Read more.
In this paper, I discuss the evolution of Buddhist civilisational populism in modern Sri Lankan politics and civil society. I do this by historicising early forms of Buddhist civilisational populism in the country, during its occupation by the British Empire (1815–1945). As I discuss in this paper, some of the key concepts of “civilisationism” central to leading social and political movements in British Ceylon were a result of the disruptions caused by centuries of European colonial rule. Consequently, issues of identity and belonging have carried on to the post-independence context. In this paper, I discuss what these dynamics could possibly mean for the future of Sri Lankan politics and society, in the wake of the nation’s debilitating economic crisis last year. Full article
13 pages, 235 KiB  
Article
Jewish Civilizationism in Israel: A Unique Phenomenon
by Raja M. Ali Saleem
Religions 2023, 14(2), 268; https://doi.org/10.3390/rel14020268 - 16 Feb 2023
Viewed by 2060
Abstract
Populism and civilizationism have transformed the politics of many countries. Many scholars consider them the biggest challenges to democracy since the rise of fascism and communism in the first half of the last century. The close affinity between populism, civilizationism, and rightwing politics [...] Read more.
Populism and civilizationism have transformed the politics of many countries. Many scholars consider them the biggest challenges to democracy since the rise of fascism and communism in the first half of the last century. The close affinity between populism, civilizationism, and rightwing politics has also been analyzed and recognized in many countries from Turkey to India to the US. However, there are three areas that distinguish the appearance of civilizationism in Israel. First, in contrast to many other countries, civilizationism in Israel is not a new phenomenon. It has been an essential part of Israeli nationalism or Zionism since the early 20th century. Second, unlike many countries, Jewish civilizationism in Israel is an article of faith for all major Israeli political parties. It is not a slogan raised only by the rightwing, conservative part of the political spectrum. Finally, one observes an affinity between civilizationism and populism. Civilizational rhetoric is the mainstay of populist leaders, such as Trump, Erdogan, etc. In Israel, populism and civilizationism have no special relationship as civilizationism is mainstream politics. All politicians, populists and non-populists, have to pay homage to Jewish civilizationism; otherwise, they will not succeed. This paper analyzes the Israeli founding fathers’ statements, the Declaration of Independence, Israeli state symbols, the revival of the Hebrew language, the Law of Return, the first debate in the Knesset, and the more recent Nation-State Law to demonstrate how Jewish civilizationism is old, mainstream, and not exclusively populist. Full article
15 pages, 297 KiB  
Article
Islamist Civilizationism in Malaysia
by Syaza Shukri
Religions 2023, 14(2), 209; https://doi.org/10.3390/rel14020209 - 03 Feb 2023
Cited by 2 | Viewed by 3481
Abstract
Malaysia is known to have a diverse population across the racial and religious spectrums. However, a majority of the population identifies as Malays, and, thus, legally, as Muslims too. Although the development of the Malay identity had begun immediately after World War II, [...] Read more.
Malaysia is known to have a diverse population across the racial and religious spectrums. However, a majority of the population identifies as Malays, and, thus, legally, as Muslims too. Although the development of the Malay identity had begun immediately after World War II, the stark division between Muslims and non-Muslims came out of the 1971 New Economic Policy that prioritized the Malay population in the name of reducing poverty and stabilizing the country. With the Malay-nationalist party United Malay National Organization (UMNO) being in power for six decades, the position of the Malays became undisputed. At the same time, international and domestic development such as the Islamic revival of the 1970s, the Global War on Terror and the splitting of Malay votes in the 2000s further pushed UMNO and, later, the Islamist PAS to redefine Malay identity as part of the larger Muslim ummah under the framework of ‘civilizational populism’. By conflating ethnicity and religion, Islamist and Malay nationalist parties together with their leaders used populist discourses to ensure the people’s continued support, even at the expense of non-Muslim Malaysian citizens. Using process tracing, this article shows that civilizationism is effective to unite the majority Muslim population in a divided country such as Malaysia when policies in place failed to engender unity. As a result, Malay-Muslims sought a community beyond its borders, and with the rise of Islamist politics around the world, it has become much easier for the Malay-Muslims to highlight the plight of Muslims over that of their own co-nationalists for the benefit of domestic politics. Full article
24 pages, 429 KiB  
Article
Understanding Civilizational Populism in Europe and North America: The United States, France, and Poland
by Nicholas Morieson
Religions 2023, 14(2), 154; https://doi.org/10.3390/rel14020154 - 28 Jan 2023
Cited by 3 | Viewed by 2336
Abstract
This article tests the salience of the concept of “civilizational populism” in the European and North American contexts. Right-wing populism is increasingly successful across a range of countries in Europe and North America. While right-wing populism is oriented toward nationalism and nativism, many [...] Read more.
This article tests the salience of the concept of “civilizational populism” in the European and North American contexts. Right-wing populism is increasingly successful across a range of countries in Europe and North America. While right-wing populism is oriented toward nationalism and nativism, many right-wing populist parties increasingly perceive, as Brubaker puts it, the “opposition between self and other” and “the boundaries of belonging” not in narrow “national but in broader civilizational terms”. Yilmaz and Morieson describe this phenomenon as “civilizational populism”. Using Cas Mudde’s ideological/ideational definition of populism, Yilmaz and Morieson describe civilizational populism as “a group of ideas that together considers that politics should be an expression of the volonté générale (general will) of the people, and society to be ultimately separated into two homogenous and antagonistic groups, ‘the pure people’ versus ‘the corrupt elite’ who collaborate with the dangerous others belonging to other civilizations that are hostile and present a clear and present danger to the civilization and way of life of the pure people”. Civilizational populism appears to be widespread across Europe, and it is also present in the United States, although there is curiously little research on this phenomenon, and Yilmaz and Morieson’s conception of civilizational populism has not been extensively tested. To test the salience of this concept, this article examines three distinct manifestations of civilizational rhetoric in three different countries: the Trump administration in the United States, National Rally in France, and PiS in Poland. The article asks the following two questions. What role does civilizationalism play in populist discourses? How do the civilizational populists in France, Poland, and the United States define “the people”, “elites”, and “others”, and what are the similarities and differences between the parties/movements examined? The article finds that all three parties/movements may be termed “civilizational populists” under the definition given by Yilmaz and Morieson. It finds that the civilizational populists examined in the article posit that “elites” are immoral insofar as they have both turned away from the “good” religion-derived cultural values of “the people” and permitted or desired the immigration of people who do not share the culture and values as “the people”, instead belonging to a foreign civilization—Islam—with different and even antithetical values. However, the article finds that “the people”, “elites”, and “others” are described by Trump, Le Pen, and Kaczyński in significantly different ways. Full article
19 pages, 377 KiB  
Article
Civilizational Populism in Indonesia: The Case of Front Pembela Islam (FPI)
by Ihsan Yilmaz, Nicholas Morieson and Hasnan Bachtiar
Religions 2022, 13(12), 1208; https://doi.org/10.3390/rel13121208 - 12 Dec 2022
Cited by 1 | Viewed by 2163
Abstract
This article examines whether a ‘civilizational turn’ has occurred among populist movements in Indonesia. It focuses on the civilizational elements in the populist discourse of the Front Pembela Islam (Islamic Defender Front/FPI) in Indonesia. The article traces the FPI’s history and growing influence [...] Read more.
This article examines whether a ‘civilizational turn’ has occurred among populist movements in Indonesia. It focuses on the civilizational elements in the populist discourse of the Front Pembela Islam (Islamic Defender Front/FPI) in Indonesia. The article traces the FPI’s history and growing influence on politics and society in Indonesia in the 2010s. This article argues that the FPI has instrumentalized religious discourse, and through it divided Indonesian society into three groups: the virtuous ummah, corrupt elites, and immoral internal and external non-Muslim enemies, especially the civilizational bloc ‘the West’. This instrumentalization gained the group a degree of popularity in the second decade of the post-Suharto period and strengthened its political power and ability to bargain with mainstream political parties. The article uses the FPI’s actions and discourse during the Ahok affair to demonstrate the civilizational turn in Indonesian populism. The article shows how the FPI grew in power during the Ahok affair, in which a Christian Chinese politician, Basuki Tjahaja Purnama, was accused of blasphemy by Indonesian Islamists and later convicted on the same charge by an Indonesian court. The FPI was a leading part of a broad coalition of Islamist groups and individuals which called for Ahok to be charged with blasphemy; charges which were eventually laid and which led to Ahok being sentenced to two years imprisonment. The FPI, the article shows, framed Ahok as a non-Muslim Christian and therefore a ‘foreign’ enemy who was spreading moral corruption in Indonesia, governing ‘elites’ as complacent in combating immorality and positioned themselves as defenders of ‘the people’ or ummah. From the security perspective of the state, the FPI presented a critical threat that required containing. As a result of the growing power of the group, the FPI was banned in 2020 and Rizieq was imprisoned, while Ahok was politically rehabilitated by the Widodo government. Although the FPI’s banning is considered the most effective nonpermanent solution for the state, there is evidence that the FPI’s discourse has been adopted by mainstream political actors. This article, then, finds that the growth of the FPI during the second decade of the post-Suharto period, and their actions in leading the persecution of Ahok, demonstrates a civilizational turn in Indonesian Islamist populism. Full article
25 pages, 453 KiB  
Article
Civilizational Populism: Definition, Literature, Theory, and Practice
by Ihsan Yilmaz and Nicholas Morieson
Religions 2022, 13(11), 1026; https://doi.org/10.3390/rel13111026 - 27 Oct 2022
Cited by 13 | Viewed by 3309
Abstract
The purpose of this article is to clarify the concept of ‘civilizational populism’ and work towards a concise but operational definition. To do this, the article examines how populists across the world, and in a variety of different religious, geographic, and political contexts, [...] Read more.
The purpose of this article is to clarify the concept of ‘civilizational populism’ and work towards a concise but operational definition. To do this, the article examines how populists across the world, and in a variety of different religious, geographic, and political contexts, incorporate and instrumentalize notions of ‘civilization’ into their discourses. The article observes that although a number of scholars have described a civilization turn among populists, there is currently no concrete definition of civilization populism, a concept which requires greater clarity. The article also observes that, while scholars have often found populists in Europe incorporating notions of civilization and ‘the clash of civilizations’ into the discourses, populists in non-Western environments also appear to have also incorporated notions of civilization into their discourses, yet these are rarely studied. The first part of the article begins by discussing the concept of ‘civilizationism’, a political discourse which emphasizes the civilizational aspect of social and especially national identity. Following this, the article discusses populism and describes how populism itself cannot succeed unless it adheres to a wider political programme or broader set of ideas, and without the engendering or exploiting of a ‘crisis’ which threatens ‘the people’. The article then examines the existing literature on the civilization turn evident among populists. The second part of the article builds on the previous section by discussing the relationship between civilizationism and populism worldwide. To do this, the paper examines civilizational populism in three key nations representing three of the world’s major faiths, and three different geographical regions: Turkey, India, and Myanmar. The paper makes three findings. First, while scholars have generally examined civilizational identity in European and North American right-wing populist rhetoric, we find it occurring in a wider range of geographies and religious contexts. Second, civilizationism when incorporated into populism gives content to the key signifiers: ‘the pure people’, ‘the corrupt elite’, and ‘dangerous ‘others’. In each case studied in this article, populists use a civilization based classification of peoples to draw boundaries around ‘the people’, ‘elites’ and ‘others’, and declare that ‘the people’ are ‘pure’ and ‘good’ because they belong to a civilization which is itself pure and good, and authentic insofar as they belong to the civilization which created the nation and culture which populists claim to be defending. Conversely, civilizational populists describe elites as having betrayed ‘the people’ by abandoning the religion and/or values and culture that shaped and were shaped by their civilization. Equally, civilizational populists describe religious minorities as ‘dangerous’ others who are morally bad insofar as they belong to a foreign civilization, and therefore to a different religion and/or culture with different values which are antithetical to those of ‘our’ civilization. Third, civilizational populist rhetoric is effective insofar as populists’ can, by adding a civilizational element to the vertical and horizontal dimensions of their populism, claim a civilizational crisis is occurring. Finally, based on the case studies, the paper defines civilizational populism as a group of ideas that together considers that politics should be an expression of the volonté générale (general will) of the people, and society to be ultimately separated into two homogenous and antagonistic groups, ‘the pure people’ versus ‘the corrupt elite’ who collaborate with the dangerous others belonging to other civilizations that are hostile and present a clear and present danger to the civilization and way of life of the pure people. Full article

Planned Papers

The below list represents only planned manuscripts. Some of these manuscripts have not been received by the Editorial Office yet. Papers submitted to MDPI journals are subject to peer-review.

Title: The Islamist-Populist Discourse on Western Civilization in Turkey: “Technologically Advanced, Morally Weak”
Authors: Gokhan Bacik
Affiliation: Palacky University
Abstract: The Islamist political discourse in Turkey is also a narrative on a rivalvary of Islamic and Western civilizations. Accordingly, Islamist political actors interpret global politics as a resistance of Islamic civilization to Western civilization. This article will explain and demonstrate three interrelated subjects: (i) The intellectual origins of the Islamists’ political discourse on civilization particularly the Western civilization. The article, in this regard, shall study several names such as Necip Fazil Kısakürek and Necmetin Erbakan, who could be seen as the architects of the negative discourse on the Western civilization in Turkey. (ii) The article will then explain how the Islamist actors frame their political discourse in reference to ‘civilization’, particularly the rivalvary between the Islamic and the Western civilizations. (iii) Finally, the article will discuss how the negative discourse on the Western civilization helps Islamists in domestic politics particularly in competition with the secular parties.

Title: The Religious Rhetoric and Anti-Western Populism: The Socio-Political Ideology of Ayatollah Khamenei
Authors: Fateh Saeidi; Mohammad Sirwan Barzanji
Affiliation: Department of Sociology, Soran University, Soran, Iraq
Abstract: Ayatollah Seyyed Ali Khamenei (1939- ) is the second and current supreme leader of Islamic Republic of Iran, in office since 1989. His decisive role in directing the cultural policies inside as well as determining the foreign policy of Iran, makes it necessary to examine his thoughts. According to the constitutional authority of the Supreme Leader, Khamenei's increasing desire in more than three decades of his leadership to institutionalize his anti-Western thoughts in a country with more than 90% Shiʻa population has required a populist strategy. On the one hand, he believes in Islamic awakening, and therefore his anti-imperialist attitude has anti-Semitic (anti-Zionist in the Islamic Republic of Iran’s political discourse) and anti-Western characteristics. On the other hand, he thinks of Iranian nation as the Umm al-Qura in a predominantly Sunni Middle East, and emphasizes doubling the population of Iran, because he believes that creating a new Islamic civilization is the ultimate goal of the Iranian Revolution. Moreover, the Nuclear Program of Iran was followed by extensive economic sanctions from Western countries. Khamenei, who stubbornly insists on a no-relation policy with the United States, addresses the Iranian nation in the statement of “the Second Phase of the Revolution” in 2019, to persuade them to stand against the Western attacks by adopting Resistance Economy. To advance these economic austerities, Khamenei relies on the traditional part of Iranian society, among whom conservative ethics can still have a fundamental value. In this regard, he considers social networks to be the promoters of Western vulgar culture and calls for their extensive restrictions and censorship. For this reason, in his last statement (February 2022) about Iran's cyberspace and opposition media, he called for a combined attack on them since they have targeted Islamic culture – called cultural invasion in Khamenei’s terminology. Thus, to justify his statements, Ayatollah Khamenei employs religious rhetoric as most of his keen followers are still from the conservative class of Iranian society.

Title: Front Pembela Islam (FPI)’s Civilizational Populism in Indonesia
Authors: Hasnan Bachtiar
Affiliation: UNIVERSITY OF MUHAMMADIYAH MALANG
Abstract: This article seeks to examine the civilizational elements over the discourse of religious populism of the Front Pembela Islam (FPI) in Indonesia. It also attempts to trace its history and influence on the development of politics and society in Indonesia. This article argues that FPI has instrumentalized religious discourse and resulted in the civilizational idea of the bifurcation of the world: the good ummah vis-à-vis the evil society). This instrumentalization has succeeded to gain popularity from Muslims. It has strengthened its political power and bargaining, although it leads to harden Muslims’ religious behaviour towards conservatism. Its civilizational populism has resulted in the allegation of blasphemy and therefore judiciary sentence of two years imprisonment for Ahok, its Christian-Chinese rival. From the security perspective of the state, FPI is the crucial threat that must be contained. It was banned in 2020. Although its banning has been claimed to be the most effective non-permanent solution for the state, giving some places for conservative-populist figures of MUI in the governmental positions will potentially invite other kinds of intolerance. At the same time, the Ahok affair and his political rehabilitation demonstrate Muslims’ imagination of a clash of civilizations between Islam, the West, and China. It, furthermore, suggests that there is an inclination for the discourse emerging multiple civilizational threats to the ummah in the country.

Title: ETHNO-NATIONALISM AND ISLAMIST CIVILIZATIONALISM IN MALAYSIA
Authors: Syaza Shukri
Affiliation: Department of Political Science, Kulliyyah of Islamic Revealed Knowledge and Human Sciences, International Islamic University Malaysia
Abstract: Malaysia is known to have a diverse population across racial and religious spectra. However, a majority of the population identifies as Malays, and thus legally as Muslims. Although the development of the Malay identity had begun immediately after World War II, the stark division between Muslims and non-Muslims came out of the 1971 New Economic Policy that prioritized the Malay population in the name of reducing poverty and stabilizing the country. With the Malay-nationalist party, UMNO, being in power for six decades, the position of the Malays became undisputed. At the same time, international and domestic development such as the Islamic revival of the 1970s, the Global War on Terror and the splitting of Malay votes in the 2000s further pushed UMNO to redefine Malay identity as part of the larger Muslim ummah. By conflating ethnicity and religion, Islamist and Malay nationalist parties and their leaders used populist discourses to ensure the people’s continued support, even at the expense of non-Muslim Malaysian citizens. As a result, Malay-Muslims sought a community beyond its borders, and with the rise of Islamist politics around the world, it has become much easier for the Malay-Muslims to highlight the plight of Muslims over that of their own co-nationalists.

Title: Jewish civilizationalism and populism in Israel: New or old?
Authors: Raja M. Ali Saleem
Affiliation: The Centre for Public Policy and Governance at Forman Christian College in Lahore
Abstract: Populism and civilizationalism have transformed the politics of many countries. Many scholars consider them the biggest challenges to democracy since the rise of fascism and communism in the first half of the last century. The close affinity between populism, civilizationalism, and right-wing politics has also been analyzed and recognized in many countries from Turkey to India to the US. However, there are three areas that distinguish the appearance of civilizationalism and populism in Israel. First, in contrast to many other countries, civilizationalism is not a new phenomenon. It has been an essential part of Israeli nationalism or Zionism since the early 20th century. Second, unlike many countries, Jewish civilizationalism in Israel is an article of faith for all major Israeli political parties. It is not a slogan raised only by the rightwing, conservative part of the political spectrum. Finally, one observes an affinity between civilizationalism and populism. Civilizational rhetoric is the mainstay of populist leaders, such as Trump, Erdogan, etc. In Israel, populism and civilizationalism have no special relationship as civilizationalism is mainstream politics. All politicians, populist and others, have to pay homage to Jewish civilizationalism, otherwise they will not succeed. This paper analyzes the Israeli founding fathers statements,, Declaration of Independence, Israeli state symbols, revival of Hebrew language, the Law of Return, the first debate in the Knesset, and more recent Nation-State law to demonstrate how Jewish civilizationalism is old, mainstream, and not exclusively populist.

Title: Hindu civilizationalism: Make India Great Again
Authors: Raja M. Ali Saleem
Affiliation: The Centre for Public Policy and Governance at Forman Christian College in Lahore
Abstract: Hindu civilizationalism is more than a century old phenomenon that has been steadily gaining strength. Its recent amalgam with populism has made it ascendent, popular, and mainstream in India. This paper explores how Hindu civilizationalism is not only an essential part of the Hindutva and BJP's narrative but also of the mainstay of several government policies. The "other" of BJP's populist civilizationalist rhetoric are primarily Muslims and Muslim civilization in India and the aim is to make India "vishwaguru" (world leader) again after 1200 years of colonialism. The evidence of this heady mixture of civilizationalism and populism are numerous and ubiquitous. This paper analyzes topic such as Akhand Bharat, golden age, denigrating Mughals, Vedic pseudo science, Sanskrit promotion, Hindutva party manifestos, and Citizen Amendment Act to highlight the evidence.

Title: Buddhist civilizational populism: Legacies of anti-colonial mobilisation in contemporary Buddhist nationalism in Sri Lanka
Authors: Rajni Gamage
Affiliation: Institute of South Asian Studies National University of Singapore
Abstract: This article examines the historical emergence of Buddhist civilizationalism within the 19th century anti-colonial Buddhist Revivalist Movement during British colonial rule in Ceylon (now Sri Lanka). The Revivalist Movement’s anti-colonial nationalism was framed in civilizational populist terms. This anti-colonial discourse attributed the coloniser’s violent and unjust rule to its civilizational defects, in particular in relation to the coloniser’s religion, Christianity. In contrast, the religion of the majority of the people of Ceylon, Buddhism, was claimed to belong to a much superior Aryan Buddhist civilization. Importantly, this superiority was justified in this social order ostensibly having discovered socio-political values such as democracy much before European civilizations had. This article begins with a brief conceptualisation of the framework of ‘civilizational populism’. It then demonstrates how the main elements of Buddhist Revivalist discourse in colonial Ceylon and how its anti-colonial discourse were not restricted to the notions of race (ethnicity) and religion solely within the nation-state. Instead, this discourse located Ceylon within a broader Aryan Buddhist civilizational frame. This civilizational populist discourse, even while claiming to be distinct to the heritage of its colonisers, replicated many of the latter’s worldviews and knowledge structures. The legacies of this civilizational populism are then contextualised against contemporary Buddhist nationalist movements in Sri Lanka.

Title: Civilisational replacement theories in populist far rightand islamist discourses
Authors: Susan de Groot Heupner
Affiliation: Griffith University
Abstract: Rooted in the premise and scholarship that modern populist constructions of far right and islamist discourses are co-dependent, this article examines the ontological and epistemological foundations of their shared civilizational identities. Tracing civilizational replacement theories as a central idea in both discourses, the article brings to the foreground a shared "populist mindset" to understand, reject, and mitigate changing demographics. Thus far, research on the use of replacement theories has focused on the modern far right, using rhetoric and performances, such as terror attacks in Norway, New Zealand, and more recently, the United States and Australia, as evidence. Taking a discourse-theoretical approach that posits the extra-linguistic nature of discourse, the article examines the symbolic and affective components of replacement discourses. In doing so, it shifts attention from the explicit to the implicit by attributing value to the unspoken embedded in the use of symbols, myths, and imagery to construct a clashing paradigm. By examining the Muslim as the dominant clashing subject in global politics, it reveals the hidden and disguised components that give both discourses its affective power. Connecting these mutually exclusive populist discourses through a civilizational lens contributes to current research that aims at comprehending the widespread support for a clashing civilizational paradigm.

Title: National Identity Formation through Civilizational Populist Discourse: The Historical-Discourse Analysis of Imran Khan's Public Addresses in 2022
Authors: Fizza Batool
Affiliation: Pak Institute for Peace Studies.
Abstract: The foundational work on civilizational populism by Yilmaz and Morrieson (2021) has set the stage to explore the complex relationship between civilizational and national identities and how it supports the populist antagonist discourse beyond national boundaries. Applying this issue to the case of Pakistan Tahreek-e-Insaaf (PTI), a populist party in Pakistan, the chapter shares the findings of critical discourse analysis of the public addresses of PTI founder and chairman Imran Khan, delivered in 2022, the year when he lost his position of Prime Minister of Pakistan through a no-confidence motion by the parliament. Using the Discourse-Historical Approach (Reisigl & Wodak, 2001) the chapter reviews the discursive strategies used by Imran Khan for the identity formation of Pakistanis around Islamic civilization and critically analyses the possible implications of this discourse on religious extremism in Pakistan. Also, the chapter critically looks at the shift in discourse while he was in power and after his ouster to see if there is any shift in the discursive strategies of populists in power and out of power.

Back to TopTop