‘Us v. Them’: the Strategic Use of Religion in Far-right Parties

How Anti-Migration and Identity Politics Work? The Case of the Dansk Folkeparti

Denmark is one of the happiest countries in the world and it might be surprising to hear that the country where our beloved Lego comes from might not be so liberal after all. In Denmark like in other European countries far-right parties have been gaining more support. The party I am going to discuss is the Dansk Folkeparti (DF) and how they utilise identity politic and anti-migration in tandem with religion.

Christianity and Islam are the two most heavily used religions in the rhetoric of the DF. Scholars have shown that the party ties Christianity to the national identity of Denmark and counterparts this to Islam which is the main religion of immigrants. This has fostered an ‘us’ versus ‘them’ stance of the DF regarding Muslim immigrants. Authors have stated that the party regularly makes statements in which they assign specific attributes to each religion – for example Christianity being more ‘modern’ and Islam more ‘traditional’, which sets these two religions further apart from the other. This is not a trait specific to the DF but can also be seen in the cases of Lega Nord in Italy, and Rassemblement National in France.

Photo by Aksel Fristrup on Unsplash

A threat to the national identity

The DF argues that the immigration of Muslims threatens the Danish national identity, which is still rooted in Christianity even though Denmark is highly secularised. Scholars state that the Danes care for Christian values, such as a traditional family and, being a hardworking member of society, other parts of the Danish national identity are democracy, the welfare, and social equality. Islam threatens these values by for example having a different idea of ‘traditional family’ or the oppression of women in the religion. These characteristics the DF assigns to Islam threaten the national identity and culture of Denmark. This argument is also commonly used by the Rassemblement National.

Researchers state that Denmark has, in the past and now, issues with accommodating a more diverse religious and cultural society, this exceptionalism has become part of the cultural and national identity. Another argument is that some Danes believe, Christianity and Islam cannot be present harmoniously in Denmark. This establishes the use of ‘us’ and ‘them’ in political and public discourse. ‘Us’ referring the to Danes and ‘them’ referring to the unwanted immigrants. The use of such language further alienates and distinguishes the two religions.

The anti-immigration / anti-Muslim stance

Kristian Thulesen Dahl (left), chairman of the DF. Ph News Øresund – Sofie Paisley. 16 June 2017. Found on Wikimedia Commons. This file is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic license.

The anti-Muslim and anti-immigration rhetoric of the DF is another way they utilise the ‘us’ and ‘them’, refereeing this time to specific attribute the DF argues Muslims have. According to the party immigrants and Muslims have brought violence and insecurity to Denmark and the danish welfare system. The belief that immigrants bring violence can also be seen in the case of Italy where they are often depicted as extremists or terrorists

One argument suggests that far-right parties face the choice of keeping the anti-Islam stance and thus marginalisation, or adopting values closer to that of the political mainstream. Interestingly enough one scholar argues that the mainstream parties in Denmark have adopted this anti-Muslim stance as well, and the DF no longer needs to actively promote it. Another author supports this view by stating that the anti-Islam stance was legitimised by the mainstream by forming coalitions with the DF.

The role of media

Photo by Drahomír Posteby-Mach on Unsplash

A further point of discussion is the publication of a controversial cartoon in a danish newspaper. The cartoon – Prophet Mohammed – pictured twelve drawing that sparked outrage in media as well as in public discourse. The publication led to violent protests, attacks on the newspaper and the cartoonist, and the burning of Danish flags. These incidents supported the narrative of the DF that Muslims bring more violence, therefore politicising religion for their gain. Moreover, scholars state that there seems to be a lack of clear opposition (pro-immigration and anti-racist) from other parties within Denmark, which puts even more focus on the anti-Muslim rhetoric. Creating an ‘in’ group and an ‘out’ group, especially the discussions within media, problematises the differences and could have a direct effect on public consciousness. Thus, some authors focus more on the role media plays in spreading the ideas of anti-Muslim, rather than the use of religion itself.


In conclusion, the use of religion and alienating rhetoric of the Dansk Folkeparti are prominent in scholars work on their recent successes. The DF makes use of Christianity to lean on the national identity and values of the Danish population while counter-parting this to Islam i.e., Muslim immigrants. While there are differences between the use of religion of the DF and the parties Lega Nord and Rassemblement National they boil down to similar arguments, such as, that Muslim immigrants pose a threat not only to the security of a society but also the culture/ identity of the countries. Regarding the specific case of the DF, I believe, the party did not have to choose between its anti-Islam rhetoric and being marginalised, as the political mainstream accepts their arguments and ideals. Which is reflected in e.g., a new law that allows the deportation of asylum seekers outside of Europe while their application is still being processed. This law was proposed by the Social Democrats and passed in the parliament with a 70 to 24 vote for the new law. Such actions show the acceptance of the mainstream towards values of the Dansk Folkeparti.

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14 thoughts on “How Anti-Migration and Identity Politics Work? The Case of the Dansk Folkeparti

  1. Interesting how you all focus on different countries within your blog! However, the structure still needs some improvement i.e. by using headings. Make sure to add in references. We are aware that this is still a draft so we are positive that this will still change.

    1. Thank you for your comment! I do agree the structure does need some work and the use of headings is a great idea, thank you. I will update my post soon and try to incorporate your feedback (also hyperlinks), please -once I update it- let me know what you think.
      – Greta

      1. Hi Greta, It looks really good now that you added pictures, headings and hyperlinks. Good and interesting piece!

        1. I am so glad to hear that you find my post interesting. And thank you again for commenting, if you have any other suggestions please do not hesitate to write another comment!

  2. Your first draft contains nice and useful information. However, we think that the structure and the connexion between paragraphs should be reviewed. It also would be easier for the reader if you reformulate some sentences, and reformulate some such as the very first one. Mentioning that you will discussed how the Danish identity is rooted Christianity is very relevant, and I can’t wait to hear this post when it will be polished!
    PS: Don’t forget hyperlinks!

    1. Thank you for your comment and feedback! I have now updated my post and changed quite a lot. I have also reformulated the first sentences like you advised and added a few hyperlinks. Would you say it is now easier to understand as a reader? Happy to include any further feedback that you have!


  3. The appearance of your article is very attractive in our eyes! Also your title points out quite good what you will write about. We think, that the message of your very first sentence is really good and attracts people. However, the way it is formulated right now, it is not very catchy right now. Maybe you can reformulate it a bit so that not only the message is attracting. We are very interested to see how your blog entry will develop, because indeed, when thinking about Denmark, right-wing parties is not the first thing we thought about. Does religion play a big role in Denmark? Did the fear of immigrants result from the fact that many people actually came to Denmark or did people in Denmark just look on countries like Italy where many people arrived and they were scared that the same would happen to them?

    1. Thank you for commenting! I now rewrote the blog and therefore also the first sentence. Please let me know if it is now more attracting for the reader? Regarding you questions, Denmark is arguably one of the most secularised societies however, Christianity, and Christian values are still part of their national identity and thus, their politics – I hyperlinked an article in the post in case you wish to read more about it. Where exactly the fear came from and when it started, I am afraid I cannot answer with complete certainty. Yet, already in 1998 immigration was one, if not the most important, issues that concerned voters in Denmark (Bjørklund & Andersen, 2002). Additionally, Hervik (2004), shows that in the beginning of the 1990s immigrants and refugees were already depicted as unwanted in Denmark. Because of this I believe that, even before the refugee wave in the 21st century, Denmark had a ‘fear’ of immigration.
      I hope I was able to answer your question. And please let me know if you have any further comments!

      – Greta

  4. As a Swedish citizen, neighbouring Danish politics are especially interesting, and it is clear to me that you have found a fresh angle to take on the subject!
    The way your opening paragraph is written is outstanding and really attractive to any reader. However, the post does need hyperlinks and perhaps a picture of the people involved in the party (maybe with a backdrop of the party logo?) to allow for readers to visualise the subject more. Admittedly, as this is a draft, it could use more work and I am sure that is what it will get soon, meaning that I am sure the post will change soon.
    For now though, excellent work!

    1. Thank you for your kind words and comment! I did change the post quite a lot so please tell me what you think of it now? I also added some hyperlinks like your feedback suggested. The picture is a great idea, we now added one as the backdrop when you click on our blog in general, would you say that is sufficient, and is that what you had in mind? Additionally, I would be very interested if you, as a Swedish citizen, have noticed a shift in Danish politics and if it has influenced you at all on your view on Denmark? Of course, there is no need to answer this question if you consider it too personal. Thank you again for commenting!

      – Greta

  5. This is a very well written blog entry in my eyes. I really enjoyed the clear, yet appealing structure. I also think that your language has found a good niche between formality and colloquialism. As a finishing touch I would only suggest to maybe add one more engaging image, that maybe shows party members in front of a church or something similar to that, as I feel that would add a bit more engagement to the DF’s party logo. 🙂

    1. Thank you for your comment and suggestion! I have now changed the second picture from just the party logo to a picture of the chairman of the DF – Kristian Thulesen Dahl – at the Dansk Folkeparti summit. I sadly could not find a picture of him in front of a church that would have been free to use. Please let me know what you think, is it now more engaging for the reader?

      – Greta

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