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Religious leaders slam AfD manifesto

May 2, 2016

The manifesto adopted by Germany's right-wing populist AfD party has been condemned by politicians and religious communities. A Muslim leader called it socially divisive and a Jewish leader dubbed it anti-religious.

Image: picture-alliance/dpa/F. von Erichsen

"Islam is not part of Germany" is the phrase in the AfD policy paper that is drawing fierce criticism across the country.

The manifesto approved by the majority of the 2,400 delegates at their party congress in the western city of Stuttgart demands a ban on minarets on mosques, the call to prayer, full-face veils for women and headscarves in schools.

Aiman Mazyek, who chairs Germany's Central Council of Muslims, said the Alternative for Germany's (AfD's) "Islamophobic" agenda, would not help "one jot" to solve problems. He told the "Neue Osnabrücker Zeitung" it would only split German society.

The AfD set up its first formal election manifesto at the weekend conference, on the back of major gains in regional elections in three German states earlier this year.

In breach of secular constitution

The president of Germany's Central Council of Jews, Josef Schuster, said resolutions passed at the AfD conference made the party's hostile stance towards religion "crystal clear."

"With this [manifesto], the AfD has departed from the foundations of our constitution," Schuster said. The agenda adopted by the AfD amounted to an attempt to "split our society and thwart peaceful coexistence," he said.

In particular, Schuster said that the AfD's anti-Islam policy showed the party's intolerance and disrespect for religious minorities.

He described the AfD's stance opposing the ritual slaughter of animals in line with Islamic and Jewish religious traditions as an attack on Judaism.

"This we should not accept," Schuster said.

Animal rights groups have called for a ban on ritual slaughter, which involves animals having their throats cut while fully conscious and being left to bleed to death.

Deutschland AfD Bundesparteitag in Stuttgart Frauke Petry
Frauke Petry called the manifesto 'a counter-draft to the political establishment'Image: Reuters/W. Rattay

No way, say conservatives, SPD

In Berlin, spokespersons for Chancellor Angela Merkel's conservatives and Vice-Chancellor Sigmar Gabriel's Social Democrats (SPD) early Monday ruled out any cooperation with the AfD.

A survey published Sunday by the pollster Emnid showed the AfD polling 13 percent among voters nationwide, making it Germany's third strongest party, just ahead of the ecologist Greens.

Gerda Hasselfeldt, a leading politician with the CSU Bavarian sister party to Merkel's conservatives, told the "Die Welt" newspaper on Monday that no democratic party would work with AfD party leader Frauke Petry.

Her dream of being part of a government in 2017 after Germany's next national elections would fail, Hasselfeldt said.

SPD deputy chairman and avowed left-winger Ralf Stegner described the AfD as a "divided and crazed far-right party."

"Its policy is to identify scapegoats, but not to present solutions," Stegner said.

Political scientist Karl-Rudolf Korte in an interview in the "Passauer Neue Presse" newspaper pointed out that the AfD remained divided into two factions.

"In western regions [of Germany] they come across as more national conservative, by contrast in eastern regions they seem more like a right-wing militia," Korte said.

Party MEPs to join Le Pen's rightist alliance

During the AfD conference, European Parliament member Marcus Pretzell said he would align himself with the Euroskeptic grouping co-chaired by French Front National chief Marine Le Pen.

Last month, Pretzel and the only other AfD member in the European Parliament, Beatrix von Storch, were expelled by the European Conservatives and Reformists (ECR) - a more centrist alliance of conservative parties.

Influence in the European chamber depends on being within a group, which has to have at least 25 lawmakers from seven EU member nations.

ipj/rg (AFP, KNA, dpa)