Saving the People: How Populists Hijack Religion by Nadia Marzouki, Duncan McDonnell, Olivier Roy (edd) - review by Eric Kaufmann

Eric Kaufmann

Holier than Thou

Saving the People: How Populists Hijack Religion


Hurst & Co 295pp £25

First the surge in support for populist, right-wing movements in western Europe, then Brexit and Trump: this is nothing if not a timely read. Edited books rarely cohere well, but in this collection of essays Nadia Marzouki, Duncan McDonnell and Olivier Roy have brought together a set of voices that sing in unison. Their main argument is that right-wing populists are interested in the form, but not the substance, of Christianity. In effect, they use Christianity to distinguish the national ‘us’ from the Muslim ‘them’ without really buying into Christian faith.

Right-wing populists, like all nationalists, use cultural symbols to mark off the nation that they claim to speak for from internal and external ‘others’. Religion and language are the most important of these symbols. Since 9/11, Europe’s anti-immigration parties have adopted Christian identity as a way of attacking

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