On nationalism: Unfortunately, this is a worldwide problem

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This guest post is written by Kate Harveston, a writer and political activist from Pennsylvania. She blogs about culture and politics, and the various ways that those elements act upon each other. For more of her work, you can follow her on Twitter or subscribe to her blog, Only Slightly Biased.

America’s news media has spent the last six months captivated by a rash of white nationalist activity. It’s easy to point a finger at the surreal result of the USA’s democratic process — the election of President Donald Trump — as the cause for all this hateful activity. The truth is, though, that nationalist sentiment has been swirling around the global geopolitical conversation for quite some time now.

In Your Own Back Yard

Mississauga is Canada’s sixth largest city, and home to a diverse population that includes many Muslim Canadians. Unbeknownst to many who live in Mississauga and other parts of the country, a recent Peel District School Board meeting became a forum for nationalistic ideas when one man suggested that Muslim students weren’t Canadian.

The parent in question was a member of the group Rise Canada, which could be compared to the white nationalist groups in America like the American Freedom Party. At a separate school board meeting, another man ripped pages from the Quran and declared the religion evil.

These sorts of mindless outcries have been shown to incite extremism by giving impressionable young minds something to fear, instead of allowing them to feel comfortable.

The Global Nationalism Movement

Largely overshadowed by the election of Donald Trump in the western media, Great Britain’s decision to exit the European Union is an obvious act of nationalistic feelings, and one that the UK won’t be able to undo quickly.

Groups like the English Defense League and Britain First rallied to win the Brexit vote that Nigel Farage eventually received recognition for. It is essential to recognize the movements behind these people and understand their motives, rather than assume one person is responsible.

Even smaller EU countries like Slovakia have exhibited noticeable signs of increasing nationalist sentiment. For many Slovaks, the 2016 election of a Neo-Nazi party member to the nation’s parliament was a shocking setback for the advance of democratic ideas.

While it was only a single seat, not a controlling share of parliament, the presence of nationalistic groups operating at a global level is further exemplified with similar happenings in places like Croatia, Hungary, and Poland.

What we can do

So, how does one take action to ensure that their country doesn’t go down the same path, or at least take the side of inclusivism instead of promoting divisive ideas?

Fighting back against discriminatory legislation is one way. Canadian parliament recently suggested a law that prohibits face coverings for public workers. Anyone with a basic understanding of the importance that headscarves and niqabs for Muslim women can see how such a bill would immediately hinder Canadian women from observing their religion while on the job.

It would be irresponsible to wait for Charlottesville-type acts to take place in Canada and other countries when we know the problems exist. Canada's history is not without its dark times on the topic of race relations. Aboriginal Canadians may not have the media spotlight the way that groups in the US do, but the hardships they’ve endured are no different from other oppressed minorities.

Rather than make the mistakes of America and deny the problem, the right thing to do is take ownership. Understanding why nationalistic groups exist, accepting it, and then working to educate those who fear diversity are important first steps. We may have our differences, but the answer is in treating people like humans, not enemies.

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