ISLAMABAD-On the 25th anniversary of the peace agreement that ended the genocide in Rwanda – a fascism inspired genocide – one sees a growing acceptance of the return of fascism in mainstream politics, globally.

Fascism is a form of radical right wing, extreme nationalism and complete authoritarianism; its return will have a long lasting impact on the world. Neo-fascism of today lays the blame on immigrants rather than on Jews and Leftists – it’s not very different just smarter. Mark L Thomas in his paper, “Fascism in Europe today” claims that fascist parties today have their roots in historical fascism but use democratic ideas to gain political legitimacy. He argues that these parties still follow the ideology of extreme counter-revolution yet have managed to gain ground through barely concealed anti-semitic and Islamophobic points of view through the electoral and parliamentary processes of their respective countries.

Recently, Indian Congress MP Mahua Moitra made a speech in Lok Sabha stating that the Indian Constitution was under threat due to growing fascism. She pointed out 7 signs of fascism, including continuing-superficial and xenophobic nationalism, disdain for human rights, subjugation of mass media, obsession with national security and creation of enemies, religion and government intertwined, disdain for intellectuals and arts, erosion of independence of electoral system and related these to the happenings in India.

Similarly, events in the West also reflect the growing popularity of fascism. President Trump who has made fascist beliefs vogue again, called for a group of four Democratic Congresswomen of colour to “go back home” despite the fact that three of them were born in the US while the fourth became a citizen as a child. And then again, in a recent North Carolina Rally, the crowd chanted “Let them leave” led by the President himself. Clearly, since taking office Trump has emboldened fascists and neo-Nazis.

Along with the US president, the after effects of 2007-09 financial crisis have also led to a deep seated fear of immigrants taking over the economy – Brexit serves as a primary example. Insecurity, stemming from terrorist attacks in Europe, is a factor too. The fact that most people link terrorism with Islam has increased Islamophobic and anti-immigrant sentiments. This trend is leading to a world that is becoming paranoid. Fear drives people to do things they wouldn’t normally do like elect officials who are overtly fascists – in Hungary, the government is led by Fidesz party’s Viktor Orban, and the party combines anti-Muslim racism with barely concealed anti-semitism. In the 2017 elections in France and Germany, parties such as Front National party (France) and Alternative fur Deutchland (AfD Germany) gained significant ground. In other European countries extreme right wing/fascist parties have developed a powerful presence in the political spheres like Golden Dawn in Greece, ELAM in Cyprus, Sweden Democrats and the People’s party – Our Slovakia to name a few, these figures show leanings towards fascist ideology growing. A trend of manipulation of people’s fear can be seen as a tool for fascists - Adolf Hitler manipulated German’s fear, after WWI, built on it to start WWII.

Continuing this trend in South Asia, the incumbent Indian government is often accused of having fascist leanings. Recently, a BJP rally in Delhi called for a check on the Muslim population in India – it included BJP leader Union Minister Giriraj Singh who called for a law to be passed to “tackle the problem of declining Hindu population and to stop the rise of non-Hindu population.”

Considering the rise of fascism, academics are debating the issue of why this shift is becoming more prominent? Many lay the blame on economic and socio-cultural reasons. One needs to understand that conservative media and political parties reacted to neoliberal hegemony by radicalizing the extreme Right over racism, Islamophobia and anti-immigration which led to widespread acceptance of such ideas and encouraged radical nationalism. This makes it easy to see the connection between media and public mindset – media has been used as a tool for propaganda throughout history as was the case in Rwanda and Nazi Germany. In recent times ‘fake news’ has become an integral part of election processes in many countries. Social media is another asset for this purpose with many politicians using different platforms to comment on events without any buffers.

–The writer is a freelance contributor.