COLOGNE – German Archbishop Rainer Maria Woelki of Cologne has come under fire for saying that Islam is compatible with the German constitution which protects mosques same as it does with churches.
“The religion of Islam is compatible with the German Constitution just as Judaism or Christianity is,” the cardinal said, criticizing Germany’s anti-Islam party, Alternative for Deutchsland (AfD), for claiming that Islam is incompatible with the German Constitution, Catholic News reported on Sunday, May 1.
“Those who question the freedom of belief and religion guaranteed by our Constitution should ask themselves whether they haven’t left the grounds of the Constitution with their fear-fanning postulations,” Woelki added in a video he posted online earlier.
“We do not need any such alternative for Germany. The freedom of religion in our country is without alternative. Never again must people in this country be marginalized or persecuted for their race, ethnicity or religion.”
The comments came as the cardinal charged AfD with “fear-mongering.”
Nevertheless, these comments triggered a backlash against the cardinal, with some critics are claiming the cardinal is out to destroy the Catholic Church.
“These self-appointed saviors of the Christian West who are looking for an absolute Antichrist should take a look in the mirror,” editor-in-chief Ingo Brueggenjuergen of the Catholic broadcaster Dom Radio said.
The editor added that in his view, Woelki is “in good company” with Pope Francis and his immediate predecessors who talked about Muslims as brothers in faith.
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.
The AfD party has benefited from anti-immigrants public discourse, winning seats in eight of Germany’s sixteen regional assemblies.
Meanwhile, mainstream politicians are worried about right-wing attacks on migrants.
German police near Dresden recently arrested five people they suspect of forming a far-right militant group and preparing attacks using explosives on asylum seekers.
Germany has Europe’s second-biggest Muslim population after France, and Islam comes third in Germany after Protestant and Catholic Christianity.
It has between 3.8 and 4.3 million Muslims, making up some five percent of the total 82 million population, according to government-commissioned studies.