AfD takes an anti-Islam stance to attract voters | Germany| News and in-depth reporting from Berlin and beyond | DW | 18.04.2016
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AfD takes an anti-Islam stance to attract voters

In its new party platform, the AfD is exploiting the widespread fear of Islam and paints a simplified picture of a threatening religion. Muslim organizations and political parties in Germany are outraged.

If it were up to the Alternative for Germany (AfD), minarets and fully covered Muslim women would be prohibited in Germany. Even the muezzin call, which is hardly ever heard in the country anyway, would also be banned. "Islam does not belong to Germany," is stated as one of the main proposals for a new AfD platform. AfD deputy leader Beatrix von Storch goes further and says, "Islam is a political ideology that is not compatible with the German constitution."

Beatrix von Storch

Von Storch: Islam does not belong to Germany

In an interview with the German newspaper "Frankfurter Allgemeine Sonntagszeitung," von Storch and the second AfD deputy leader, Alexander Gauland, outlined the party platform. Gauland, who is also the head of the party in the German state of Brandenburg, stressed the fact that Islam is a "foreign body" in the Federal Republic of Germany. He added that Islam is "always associated intellectually with the takeover of a state."

The party platform draft will be voted on at the end of April at the party convention in Stuttgart. The two-and-half pages state that a parallel society with Sharia judges is not acceptable, that Koran schools should close and Islamic organizations should not be allowed to have the same rights as other churches.

Conformist or threatening?

In an interview with German public broadcaster DLF, the chairman of the Rhineland-Palatinate AfD, Uwe Junge, said that he shares this view. "Islam is a political religion. It does not have the restraint that we usually expect of a religion, i.e., that it should stay out of politics." According to Junge, the party is not against all Muslims. Those who "have earned their place in our society by adapting and integrating" are not included. But there is also another Islam, which in Junge's view is against everything that constitutes a free, basic democratic order: That Islam is intolerant, against the freedom of expression and rejects the equality of men and women.

Uwe Junge placard

Uwe Junge: Islam is a political religion

The other political parties are alarmed. Parties campaigning against religions are a new development, explained the CDU politician Armin Laschet in the newspaper "Rhein-Neckar-Zeitung." "That would divide our country," he warned. Green Party politician Konstantin von Notz said the AfD is deliberately trying to divide society and seeking votes by presenting Islam as a bogeyman.

The AFD was successful in the recent elections, especially because it criticized the federal government's stance on the refugee issue. Concerned about the influx of some 1.5 million refugees, many voters marked their X next to AfD, which advocates clsoing the borders to refugees. In the state elections that took place in March, the party won 15 percent of the vote in Baden-Württemberg and nearly 13 percent in Rhineland-Palatinate. It even achieved the second best result in Saxony-Anhalt at 24 percent.

Pegida rally in Dresden

PEGIDA demonstrators held frequent rallies in Dresden last year

The Palatinate AfD leader Junge denies the allegations that the party has chosen Islam as its main topic because the euro crisis and the refugees are dominating the headlines less and less. "Islam is a constant topic, which we have of course discussed with regard to the refugee crisis," says Junge. AfD representatives have spoken out during the anti-Islam demonstrations held by "Patriotic Europeans against the Islamization of the West" (Pegida) since 2014.

Exploiting societal prejudices

The chairman of the Central Council of Muslims in Germany, Aiman Mazyek, says that the issue already exists. "It is not as though this party has just created Islamophobia; it is riding on a wave which already exists in our society anyway," says Mazyek.

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