The Faculty of Social and Political Sciences (FISIP), UIN Sunan Ampel Surabaya (UINSA) has organized the 3RD Sunan Ampel International Conference of Political and Social Sciences (SAICoPSS) on Tuesday and Wednesday, 14-15 November 2023. During the second plenary session, Dr. Jan Jaap de Ruiter from Tilburg University, the Netherlands gave a presentation on Muslim communities in European democracies facing the forces of populis, focusing on the case of the Netherlands. This session was moderated by Nur Luthfi Hidayatullah, M.Hub.Int., a lecturer of International Relations in UINSA.

Initially, Dr. de Ruiter explained that populist parties in European democracies try to create ‘Islam-less’ societies. Still, there is no Islam without Muslims. So, should for example Dutch Muslims leave the country? And are European democracies strong enough to oppose populism? Claude Lefort, a French philosopher explained that the diversity of peoples and cultures is the core of democracy.

On the other hand, totalitarianism supports the idea of that one people,causing hostility to others, and leading to dictatorship. For example, when Hitler was appointed Chancellor through democracy, then in three months he started his Third Reich leading in the end to the Second World War. Western Populism’s ideology states to be inspired by Christianity and humanism, excluding people with non-Western backgrounds. Populist parties label Muslims as fundamentalists and possible terrorists, who reject democracy, women’s rights and homosexuas. Thus, populists tend to label Muslims as a threat towards democracy.
There are many examples of populist political parties in Europe.

For instance, Mr. Thierry Baudet from the Dutch party Forum for Democracy. When the Fidesh party took control of the parliament in Hungary, democracy became autocracy. In France, Rassemblement National lead by Marine le Pen, the daughter of Jean-Marie Le Pen spread Islamophobic sentiments while her father expressed himself in an openly anti-Semitic way The Alternative for Germany (AFG) which have 13% votes, states that Islam doesn’t belong to Germany. 5% of the 17 million population in the Netherlands is Muslim. Muslims in the Netherlands came from various countries, mainly Turkey and Morocco, but also from Syria, Iran and Iraq. Some Muslims in the Netherlands are also active in politics, such as the current Rotterdam mayor who has a Moroccan background.
Still, not every populist movement leads to the erosion of democracy. For instance, in the United States, Trump lost to Biden, which indicated that populist candidates don’t always win elections. In conclusion, populist parties develop within democratic systems, possibly leading to undemocratic, if not totalitarian political practices. (Luthfi)