A right-wing political party in Denmark is calling for refugees and immigrants to celebrate Christmas and other Christian festivals in order to be considered “Danish”, sparking outrage from opponents.
Martin Henriksen, the Danish People’s Party (DPP) immigration spokesperson, said going to church would put new arrivals “on the right track”.
“We believe that those who come to this country should make as much effort as possible to become Danes, and to do that you need to understand Christianity and its importance to Danish people,” he told the Jyllands Posten newspaper.
“You have to participate in that part of our culture to experience the things that bring together the majority of our population through common rituals and traditions.”
Mr Henriksen suggested immigrants should visit churches during the main Christian festivals of Christmas and Easter – “just to see what’s happening”.
Left-wing politicians described the sentiments as “un-Danish”, arguing that it was dangerous to equate integration and nationality with religion.
The comments came amid a heated national debate on “Danishness”, which reached the country’s parliament last week after the DPP introduced a statement expressing concern over the number of people with an “immigrant background” living in a suburb of Copenhagen.
The statement, approved by 55 votes to 54, generated controversy by classifying “immigrants and their descendants” as non-Danes, whether or not they were born in Denmark or had gained citizenship.
“Parliament notes with concern that today there are areas of Denmark where the proportion of immigrants from non-Western countries and their descendants is over 50 per cent,” the DPP’s declaration read.
“The Danish parliament believes that Danes should not be a minority in areas of Denmark.”
The anti-immigration DPP won the European Parliament election in Denmark 2014 and received 21 per cent of the vote in the 2015 general election, making it the country’s second-largest party.
It has supported a series of divisive policies implemented in Denmark since the start of the refugee crisis, including the “jewellery law” seeing valuables seized from asylum seekers to pay for their stay, and prosecutions for giving migrants lifts.
Denmark clamped down on immigration after receiving more than 20,000 asylum applications in 2015 – one of the highest rates per capita in the EU – mostly from predominantly Muslim countries including Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan.
The moves have drawn condemnation from international bodies including the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees and the EU Human Rights Commissioner, but the DPP’s popularity has continued to rise.
Its youth wing was forced to apologise last year for a song endorsing Donald Trump’s presidential campaign, which described Barack Obama as a “negro without talent”.
A statement claimed the song had been misunderstood, describing it as a “fun party tune”.