“(Trump’s) Muslim ban stunned everyone, and runs exactly contrary to the values of religious freedom that the US is founded upon,” Phillips Stevens Jr. told IQNA in an interview.
Phillips Stevens Jr. is an associate professor of anthropology at the University at Buffalo College of Arts and Sciences. He is a cultural anthropologist whose research analyzes and traces the roots of religion and spiritualism in human culture.
Following is the text of the interview:
IQNA: Some believe that the defeat of Donald Trump in the 2020 elections means the defeat of populist currents in the world. What do you think?
Stevens: It should slow them down somewhat, at least temporarily. Many of the current “populist” movements in Europe were acknowledged to have been stimulated by him. But it will not end them. But before you go further, you should define “populism,” and “populist movements.” In a democracy, the will of the voter is populist, isn’t it? And, any social movement that is generated by a feeling of collective repression, having concluded that the government will not help and aims to establish a better life for the actors by their own means, is a "populist" movement, and as long as there is social inequality in the world, such movements will continue. They started long before Trump – indeed Christianity, and Islam, started this way.
IQNA: What is the main reason for the tendency of Western societies towards populism and anti-Islamic currents?
Stevens: As I said in the previous response, social inequality – a general feeling of denial of some basic rights of access and opportunity. You must separate “populism” from “anti-Islamic currents.” Islam has been in America since its founding. It came with slaves, and with refugees and other immigrants. It was relatively unnoticed for centuries. But after the attacks of September 11, 2001, Muslims became scapegoats. We can talk more about social scapegoating, if you like.
IQNA: In the US election, we saw a large turnout in voting and influencing racial and religious minorities such as Muslims. What was the main reason for the formation of this wave?
Stevens: Your question is not correctly worded, I think. If you mean “a large turnout in voting by racial minorities and Muslims…” the answer is clear, and is evident in the presidency of Donald Trump. He has encouraged racism and other forms of discrimination. His Muslim ban stunned everyone, and runs exactly contrary to the values of religious freedom that the US is founded upon.
IQNA: Do you think that the ideology of Trumpism in America can come to power again under another name?
Stevens: Yes. It has been there for a long time, much smaller, much less influential. It has grown under Trump, and it will subside very slowly, but it will never disappear. Most people hope that another demagogue never comes to power again, and some politicians and political scientists are formulating changes to keep that from happening – but whether such reforms can be instituted, remains to be seen.
IQNA: What do you think can threaten the world after the defeat of populism and extreme rightism?
Stevens: Severe environmental degradation resulting from increasingly rapid climate change, which will lead to drought and famine affecting hundreds of millions of people. To avert climatological disaster, the nations of the world – the entire world – must act together. The is the only valid answer to your question, and it is truly serious, it cannot be postponed any longer.
Thank you for asking my opinions.
Interview by Mohammad Hassan Goodarzi