Date of Submission

24-3-2019

Abstract

To test this hypothesis, the thesis analyses the discourse of two populist radical right parties in Western Europe: The National Front (now known as National Rally) of France, and the Party for Freedom of the Netherlands. This analysis has two parts: The first tests part of my hypothesis: that Europeans’ encounter with Islam in Europe has (1) revealed the non-universal nature of European secularism to Europeans, and (2) demonstrated the secularisation of Christianity into ‘culture.’ The second consists of Critical Discourse This thesis seeks to understand the role of religion in the discourse of Western Europe’s populist radical right parties. Populist radical right parties have made extraordinary electoral gains in a number of Western European nations. Many of these parties call for a return to Christian and/or Judeo-Christian values, and for the Christian and/or Judeo-Christian identity of their respective nations to be respected and preserved. Muslims, in particular, are singled out by the populist radical right as a threat to Western Christian values and identity. Yet these populist radical right parties do not appear to be advocates of a religious doctrine or way of life; rather, they most often frame themselves as defenders of secularism. This is curious: if populist radical right parties in Western Europe are secular, when then has Christian or Judeo-Christian identity become such an important aspect of their discourse? Building on sociologist Rogers Brubaker’s observation that populist radical right parties in Western Europe are not genuinely religious, but rather Christian identitarian in orientation, this thesis contends that populist radical right parties use religion in their discourse in order to exclude Muslims from European society, and to protect their respective secular nationalisms. Therefore the primary question asked in this thesis is: why is religion used as a tool to differentiate ‘the people’ from ‘the other’ in the discourse of the populist radical right in Western Europe? The thesis proposes a hypothesis: Western Europeans’ encounter with Islam in Europe has (1) revealed the non-universal nature of Western European secularism to Europeans, and (2) demonstrated the secularisation of Christianity into Western European ‘culture.’ This recognition that Christianity has been secularised into ‘culture’ has allowed secular Europeans to identify themselves – and their nation and ultimately Western civilisation – as Christian or Judeo-Christian. These effects have precipitated the formation of Christianist secularism, a type of Christian identitarian politics which perceives contemporary European culture to be ‘Christianity secularised.’ A group of populist radical right parties in Western Europe, then, have embraced Christianist secularism, which they use to define their respective national identities in religio-civilisational terms, i.e. as (Judeo-)Christian. In doing so, they are able to exclude Muslims from their society, on the grounds that Islam is an alien religion which – unlike Christianity and possibly Judaism – has not and cannot be secularised into ‘culture'. Analysis of three selected texts produced by the respective leaders of the National Front and Party for Freedom, Marine Le Pen and Geert Wilders, produced during the 2012-2017 period. The Critical Discourse Analysis seeks answers in the selected to the following questions: (1) does the discourse display the key elements of Christianist secularism? (2) How is Islam constructed in the discourse? (3) How is Christian identity used to exclude Muslims from European society?

School/Institute

Institute for Religion, Politics, and Society

Document Type

Thesis

Access Rights

Open Access

Extent

299 pages

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Faculty

Faculty of Education and Arts

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