BERLIN – A member of the far-right, anti-Islam Alternative for Germany (AfD) has converted to Islam, leaving his position on the party’s national executive committee, Deutsche Welle reported Tuesday.
“That’s my private business,” Arthur Wagner told the German daily newspaper Tagesspiegel, who first reported his conversion to the Islamic faith.
Rumors about Wagner’s conversion to Islam followed his resignation from his position in AfD party on January 11.
Though Wagner refused to comment on his conversion to Islam, the news was confirmed by the party spokesman Daniel Friese.
“The party has no problem with that,” Friese said.
“Religion is a private matter. We support the constitutional right of religious freedom,” he added.
Wagner, a German of Russian origin, had been a representative of the AfD since 2015. He was a member of the state committee with responsibility for churches and religious communities.
The AfD has become the third-largest party in Germany, after winning 12.6 percent of the vote in parliamentary elections on Sept. 24.
The party’s basic program, which was adopted last year, claimed that “Islam does not belong to Germany.”
Wagner is not the first politician from a far-right party to convert to Islam.
In 2013, Arnoud Van Doorn, a former member of the far-right Freedom Party (PVV), embraced Islam after an extensive study of the religion.
He was among party leaders who helped produce an offensive film titled Fitna in 2008 that linked Islam and the Qur’an to violence.
But after Muslim outcry at the movie, Doorn began to read more about Islam and Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessing be upon him), leading him to embrace Islam in 2013.
Maxence Buttey, a councilor in the eastern Paris suburb of Noisy-le-Grand, also converted to Islam in January 2016, sending a video message to fellow officials of anti-immigration Front National party to praise the Muslims’ holy book, the Qur’an, and asking them to join him.