BERLIN – A proposal by Germany’s right-wing party to ban minarets and burkas in the country has sparked angry condemnations from Muslims, seeing it as playing into the hands of anti-Muslim extremists.
“I think the AfD is playing with people’s fears,” Burhan Kesici, the head of the Islamic Council, told Germany’s public broadcaster Deutschlandfunk, referring to populist Alternative for Germany (AfD) party, New Europe reported on Tuesday, April 19.
“We had a wave of refugees last year, we have a lot of unemployment, we have other problems. I think now they are trying to score, using Islam to attract new voters.”
The anti-Muslim proposal triggered accusations to AfD of promoting “racist propaganda”.
One of the party’s deputy leaders, Beatrix von Storch, told local media Sunday that Islam was a “political ideology that is not compatible with the constitution.”
In comments to the weekly Frankfurter Allgemeine Sonntagszeitung, she added: “Muslims belong to Germany, but Islam does not belong to Germany. We are for a ban on minarets, on muezzins and on full-body veils.”
Her remarks were condemned by Christine Buchholz, a lawmaker for the opposition Left Party.
“The problem in Germany is not about minarets, headscarves or muezzins, but rather it is about racism against a religious minority,” Buchholz said in a statement.
“The AfD distracts attention from the unjust distribution of wealth and channels social discontent toward racist propaganda.”
For Muslims, Kesici said there was no need for Muslims to expressly campaign against the AfD’s opinions.
Stressing values of equality among men and women in Islam, he added that women in Islam did not necessarily have to wear the veil.
“It is left to a woman if she wants to wear the burka and that does not have anything to do with social pressure,” Kesici told Deutschlandfunk.
The head of Germany’s Central Council of Muslims, Aiman Mazyek, accused AfD of failing to conform with German constitution.
“It is not Islam which is against the Basic Law [the German constitution], but the AfD which does not conform to it,” he said.
The far-right has benefited greatly from anti-immigrants public discourse.
In recent days, support for the far-right Alternative for Germany (AfD) party as well as the xenophobic and anti-Islamic PEGIDA movement has surged.
Countering anti-refugee attacks, an elite German anti-terror unit carried out dawn raids on Monday to capture five right-wing extremist suspects accused of attacking refugee shelters and political opponents.
Moreover, the founder of Germany’s xenophobic and anti-Islamic PEGIDA movement will appear in court Tuesday on hate speech charges for branding refugees “cattle” and “scum” on social media.