Nationalism is not Patriotism, it is a Threat to World Peace


January 6 insurrection at the US capitol, image by

Peace in Europe and America may be at risk given the recent emergence of nationalism, which first emerged in Europe and now on the rise within the US.

European nations waged wars against one another for centuries. The two European wars WWI and WWII engulfed the world and were the deadliest in human history. Around 120 million people died as a result of these two wars. A majority of those who died were women, children, teenagers, and young men. Since WWII, what distracted the Europeans from waging wars against one another was the United States (US), which provided the Marshall Plan to rebuild Western Europe and modernize its industries, encouraging cooperation among nations. To this day, the US continues keeping its military forces in the region and redirecting Europe’s attention outward towards influencing affairs in other regions through vehicles such as the United Nations and NATO. These initiatives promulgated peace in Europe, leading to the emergence of the European Union (EU).

However, the emergence of nationalism threatens Europe into conflicts and wars. “We know what happens when Europeans start dividing themselves up and emphasizing their differences and seeing a competition between various countries in a zero-sum way,” warned the US President Obama in November 2016.


The rise of nationalism across the world, especially in the US, the UK, and the EU continue to threaten the fabric of democracies across the world. It contributes to poor and often hostile treatment of refugees and asylum-seekers coming from the Middle East and other regions.

In Europe, the nationalists are joining together to divide Europe. They are gaining power in numerous countries, including Croatia, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Italy, Poland, Serbia, and the UK. In December 2021, the right-wing European leaders met in Poland to cooperate in strengthening their nationalistic ideals and activities.

In June 2016, the United Kingdom (UK) nationalists led the vote in a referendum, known as the Brexit or EU referendum, to leave the EU. In the US, President Trump empowered nationalism. Consequently, the rise of nationalism in the EU and the US resulted in hardship for the refugees and asylum-seekers, especially those coming from the Muslim countries. It also resulted in attacks on American Jewish and Muslim religious minorities. Worst of all in the US, it contributed to the 2021 capitol insurgency that threatened the fabric of American democracy, revealing the extent of domestic terrorism, racism, and white supremacy.

Nationalist aspiration has also been rising in other countries, including Russia, Myanmar, and India. Russia’s claim on Crimea, the land of Tatars — the indigenous people of Crimea, is totally baseless. It is a naked nationalist aggression.

Myanmar has experienced vicious Buddhist nationalist genocide of the Rohingyas, causing an exodus of refugees into Bangladesh and other neighboring countries. This scenario resembles that of Nazi Germany, Rwanda, and the Balkans where nationalism led to demonization, cleansing, and genocide.

In India, the Hindu nationalist government has been empowering the persecution of the Indian Muslims bring up the question if Indian government is ruled by bigots. According to Freedom House, the Indian government continues instilling Hindu nationalism and abrogating the “rights of different segments of its Muslim population”.

“So, it is the human condition that to wish for the greatness of one’s fatherland is to wish evil to one’s neighbors,” said Voltaire. Nationalism is based on a belief that, “the individual’s loyalty and devotion to the nation-state surpass other individual or group interests.” It is a poisonous idea for producing a feeling of superiority over others and hostility towards other peoples and nations.

Nationalism naturally leads to interventionism, conflicts, and wars. It first surfaced in England in the 17th-century and became fashionable through the 1789 French Revolution. It is an evil Western innovation responsible for many deaths, destruction, pain, and suffering across the world. This type of behavior must not be tolerated and must be stopped.

Nationalism vs. Patriotism

Nationalism is not patriotism. Nationalism breeds defiance, stemming from fear, feeding insecurity, and producing abusive energy. In contrast, patriotism is a “feeling of attachment and commitment to a country, nation, or political community.” It is being pride of its own country, nation, or people for its accomplishments. It is being ready to cooperate with others towards doing good deeds, and willing to defend it against any foreign aggression. While nationalism has a history of a few hundreds of years, patriotism has a history of thousands of years and is as old as the world’s first civilization.

Nationalism is destructive while patriotism is productive. In the Iran-Iraq War, Iraqis and their accomplices acted on the behalf of the Arab nationalists and the Iranian defenders were patriots. In the Iraq conflict, the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) terrorists were behaving as Wahhabi nationalists and Iraqi defenders were patriots.

Time to Pause and Think

“Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it,” said George Santayana. We can remember that it was German nationalism that empowered Hitler and afterward brought shame to the Germans. It was the Hutu nationalism led to the genocide against the minority Tutsis with the support and in the presence of the French forces. It was the Serbian Christian nationalism that perpetrated genocide against the Muslims in the Balkans in the presence of the UN peacekeeping forces, especially in the 1995 Srebrenica massacre declared “safe haven” under the UN Dutch troop Protection.

Nationalism as it is expressed in the UK, the EU, and the US is harming our democratic virtues and weaning our rule of law. It also threatens global security. If unabated, it will leave us all economically exploited and morally humiliated. Unintentionally, it could also lead to WWIII, if its seeds have not been already planted by the US draconian sanctions against Iran. In his recent visit to Greece, Pope Francis condemned nationalism and asked to stop partisanship and work towards, “engaging ourselves actively for the promotion of all.”

The US was founded upon liberal individualism and common language and culture, but not religious or ethnic nationalism. It has been a melting pot, welcoming immigrants and providing opportunities. For its long-term interests, the US leaders must bring nationalism under control by reminding the citizens about the nation’s democratic values, ethnic diversity, and power of commonalities. If the US as the world’s superpower can have its house in order, chances are the European and other countries will follow.

Plenty for us All

Nationalism stems from fear and insecurity, which produce abusive energy. Fortunately, we all share the same basic needs and desires: food, clothing, shelter, prosperity, and respect. And, nature has plenty to offer to us all. May we release our fears behind judgment, control, and power thus opening the avenue to peace worldwide!

By Mehdi Alavi

*[Dr. Mehdi Alavi is the founder and president of Peace Worldwide Organization, a non-religious, non-partisan and charitable organization in the United States that promotes freedom and peace for all. It recently released its Civility Report 2021, which can be downloaded here.]

This article was originally published on Medium on March 31, 2022.