UN human rights chief: Western 'demagogues,' ISIS use same tactics

UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra'ad Al Hussein called out Western populist politicians.

Story highlights

  • UN's human rights chief says some Western politicians share an ideology of bigotry
  • Singled out Dutch lawmaker Geert Wilders, Donald Trump and Nigel Farage, among others

(CNN)The United Nation's human rights chief has launched a blistering attack on the West's populist politicians, comparing their use of "half-truths and oversimplification" to spark fear in voters to the strategies used by ISIS.

Zeid Ra'ad Al Hussein, UN high commissioner for human rights, directed a brutal verbal assault on controversial Dutch lawmaker and leader of the Dutch Freedom Party (PVV), Geert Wilders, criticizing him and others for spreading hatred and prejudice for the sake of political points.
    "I wish to address this short statement to Mr. Geert Wilders, his acolytes, indeed to all those like him -- the populists, demagogues and political fantasists," said Hussein, addressing a security conference Monday at the Hague.

    Recognizable rhetoric?

    Hussein criticized the Dutch politician's philosophy, likening it to that of Donald Trump, Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban, right-wing French National Front leader Marine Le Pen and Brexit leader Nigel Farage among others, saying that they all share an ideology of "deceit, bigotry and ethnic nationalism." He also noted the similarities of their political platforms to that of ISIS.
    "All seek in varying degrees to recover a past, halcyon and so pure in form, where sunlit fields are settled by peoples united by ethnicity or religion -- living peacefully in isolation, pilots of their fate, free of crime, foreign influence and war.  A past that most certainly, in reality, did not exist anywhere, ever.
    "The formula is therefore simple: make people, already nervous, feel terrible, and then emphasize it's all because of a group, lying within, foreign and menacing. Then make your target audience feel good by offering up what is a fantasy to them, but a horrendous injustice to others. Inflame and quench, repeat many times over, until anxiety has been hardened into hatred," he said.
    Dutch politician Geert Wilders, right, poses  with delegates at the  Republican convention in Cleveland, Ohio, in August.
    "Make no mistake, I certainly do not equate the actions of nationalist demagogues with those of Daesh, which are monstrous, sickening; Daesh must be brought to justice.  But in its mode of communication, its use of half-truths and oversimplification, the propaganda of Daesh uses tactics similar to those of the populists," Hussein said, using an alternate name for ISIS.
    Donald Trump has previously called for a complete ban on Muslims entering the US, but in August suggested an ideological test to keep would-be immigrants with radical views out of the country. He also pledged to work to work with moderate Muslim communities and countries.
    CNN has reached out to Marine Le Pen for comment, but did not get an immediate response. However, she has previously acknowledged the perceived comparisons with Trump, saying it's because they are both conducting iconoclastic campaigns against their country's political "establishment."
    "We are similar because we are not part of the establishment, we are not part of the system, and we do not depend on anybody and we don't take orders from anyone," she told CNN's Hala Gorani on August 31.
    Van der Bellen: Nationalism in Europe is at its height
    Van der Bellen: Nationalism in Europe is at its height


      Van der Bellen: Nationalism in Europe is at its height


    Van der Bellen: Nationalism in Europe is at its height 06:07
    Meanwhile Britain's Nigel Farage, former leader of the UK Independence Party, has become increasingly linked with the far-right for his Pro-Brexit stance and euroskepticism. Farage's comments through the UK referendum campaign were highly controversial, with critics denouncing him for apparently advocating racist and xenophobic views. He defended his stance, saying he was trying to battle Britain's open immigration policy with the European Union -- one that he says has caused a mass influx of people and created civic tension.
    A spokesman for Farage told CNN Tuesday Hussein's statements are "so ridiculous it shows the desperation of the establishment in their struggle to maintain the status quo."

    Defender of each individual, everywhere

    Hussein said he saw similar sentiments when he served in the UN peacekeeping force during the Balkan wars 20 years ago -- wars he said were spawned "from this same factory of deceit, bigotry and ethnic nationalism."
    And now he's fighting to "defend and promote the human rights of each individual, everywhere."
    "To them, I must be a sort of nightmare ... I am a Muslim, who is, confusingly to racists, also white-skinned; whose mother is European and father, Arab. And I am angry, too. Because of Mr. Wilders' lies and half-truths, manipulations and peddling of fear."
    The voice of human rights for the UN denounced what he called Wilders' recent "grotesque" manifesto ahead of the Dutch elections in March next year, in which the politician proposed a "de-Islamification" of the Netherlands. It laid out an 11-point plan pledging to shut down all the country's mosques, Islamic schools and asylum centers, as well as closing borders to migrants from Islamic nations and outlawing Islamic headscarves, should his PVV party win at the polls.
    Wilders called Hussein's remarks "foolish."
    ''What an utter foolish comment from the UN Jordanian bureaucrat. Another good reason to get rid of the UN. I lost my personal freedom in my fight for freedom and I don't want my country to lose its freedom as well. That's why we really do have to de-Islamize. Islam and freedom are totally incompatible," Wilders said in a statement emailed to CNN.

    Without action, a future of 'colossal violence'

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    Guterres: Migration can help solve Europe's problems


      Guterres: Migration can help solve Europe's problems


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    Hussein said that the repercussions of encouraged prejudice were already being felt around the globe, citing an acceleration of workplace discrimination while "entire communities are being smeared with suspicion of collusion with terrorists."
    He called for action to defy rather than dismiss controversial comments from politicians, warning that to allow these ideologies to fester could lead to a future rife with xenophobia and intolerance.
    "Communities will barricade themselves into fearful, hostile camps, with populists like them, and the extremists, as the commandants. The atmosphere will become thick with hate; at this point it can descend rapidly into colossal violence.
    He added: "Do not, my friends, be led by the deceiver. It is only by pursuing the entire truth, and acting wisely, that humanity can ever survive. So draw the line and speak."
    Wilders is currently leading in Dutch polls and appeared in court in March over allegedly inciting hatred against the Dutch Moroccan community. The trial will take place in late October. He previously was acquitted of making anti-Islamic statements in 2011.