Ecumenical News International

"The AfD is dividing society" - anti-Islam policy outrages politicians and religious communities

May 03. 2016

Frankfurt a.M. (epd). The demands of the new political party "Alternative for Germany" (AfD) to prohibit certain Muslim practices and symbols are meeting with widespread criticism. Aydan Özoguz (SPD), integration officer of the federal government, said on 2 May that the party was excluding a whole religious community "without any differentiation". He added, "The AfD is dividing society." Federal justice minister Heiko Maas (SPD) considers that if the party achieves its aims it will violate basic rights of the German constitution. The representatives of the about four million Muslims in Germany and of other religious communities also expressed outrage at the anti-Islam course taken by the AfD.

"Incompatible with basic Christian orientations"

Heinrich Bedford-Strohm, chair of the Council of the Evangelical Church in Germany (EKD), told the broadcaster NDR that AfD positions are not "compatible with basic Christian orientations". Inciting hate against people is completely unacceptable, he declared.  Renke Brahms, EKD spokesperson on peace issues, told epd that with such generalisations the AfD was aiding and abetting xenophobia.

Bishop Ralf Meister of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Hanover, said that the lawfulness of the AfD party programme should be verified as soon as possible, to see whether the passages on Islam comply with the German constitution.

Annette Kurschus, praeses (president) of the Evangelical Church of Westphalen, also warned against a polarisation of society by rightwing populists. "I am horrified that church leaders who speak out against xenophobia and for living together open-mindedly are becoming the object of downright hate campaigns," she said on 2 May in Dortmund. This trend was promoted by the anonymity of the social media, she added.

Banning minarets does not solve the pension problem

The Turkish-Islamic organisation Ditib sees the party programme as an "attack on the German constitution". The AfD wants to "practically abolish" the free democratic value order, said Murate  Kayman, coordinator of the Ditib regional associations. Ditib is organizationally closely linked to the state religious authority in Turkey and is part of the Coordination Council of Muslims in Germany, along with the Islam Council, the association of Islamic cultural centres and the Central Council of Muslims in Germany.

Aiman Mazyek, chair of the Central Council of Muslims in Germany, told the Neue Osnabrücker newspaper that such an anti-Islam programme would split the country. Banning minarets would not remove social injustices or resolve pension problems.

Josef Schuster, president of the Central Council of Jews in Germany, noted that with its party programme "the AfD has now defied the constitution."

The first AdD party programme states: "Islam does not belong to Germany." It rejects minarets and muezzin calls to prayer. In addition, the AfD wants to work for a ban on the burka (full-body veil) and niqab (covering the whole face) in public. The AfD also wants to stop the financing of Muslim congregations from abroad and opposes the wearing of headscarves in the public service.

Political cooperation with the AfD categorically excluded

Deputy AfD chair Alexander Gauland denied the charge that his party wanted to restrict freedom of religion. The minaret
and the call of the muezzin are expressions of a "political claim on society that we do not want," he said on national radio. That has nothing to do with the fact that Muslims in Germany can practice their faith."

After the party conference, other parties have again categorically ruled out any cooperation with the AfD. CDU general secretary Peter Tauber told the Phoenix broadcaster that he considered a coalition to be "completely out of the question". The party programme is "characterised by too much demagogy", he explained. "And democrats don't run after demagogues." In March the AfD achieved two digit results in regional elections in Baden-Württemberg, Rhineland-Palatinate and Saxony-Anhalt.

Katrin Göring-Eckardt, leader of the Greens group in the federal parliament, told the Rheinische Post: "We will proactively oppose such reactionary policies of the AfD."

Christine Buchholz, spokesperson on religion for the Linke (leftwing) party declared in Berlin: "It is not minarets, muezzin calls or veils that are the problem in Germany but social injustice, racism and existing discrimination."




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