Members of the political party seen by most Germans as nationalist known as the Alternative for Germany (AfD) are supporting a platform for the next election cycle that emphasizes Islam is incompatible with the Nations’ constitution.
Party Delegates also called for a ban on mosque minarets and the controversial burqa at the party's conference last Sunday
The AfD was born three years ago and has found wide traction among German voters appalled by Europe's refugee crisis where more than a million people, mostly Muslim, were allowed into the country over the past year.
Citing an increase in crime committed by so-called asylum seekers, a greater terrorism threat due to infiltration of refugee groups by ISIS and other militant Islamists and a failure to integrate into European society, the AfD has seen a marked increase in support from everyday Germans.
Despite this increase in popularity, to date the Party has no MPs in the federal parliament in Berlin but has seen members elected to half of Germany's 16 regional state assemblies.
Opinion polls have given the AfD a support level of 14 percent, presenting a serious challenge to Chancellor Angela Merkel's conservatives and other established parties leading up to federal elections in 2017. There have been accusations that mainstream media in Europe and the U.S. has minimized the popularity of AfD marginalizing its appeal by constant references to the Party as “far-right,” or “fascist,” in an attempt to play on guilt over Germany’s Nazi past.
Calling the AfD a ‘fringe movement” has also prompted most mainstream parties to rule out any coalition or cooperation with the AfD.
“The government, under Angela Merkel, has promoted this huge influx of Muslims who have no intention of assimilating into German culture; they are here to take our social benefits and for the most part they maintain separate enclaves in our cities and towns and have very little respect for our customs and mores,” said Hans Weibbe a political observer in Dresden who has chronicled the rise in nationalism since the refugee crisis began.
“Muslims also use symbols of their religion to foster this separation,” he added.
This has not escaped Party attention. At a clamorous debate on the second day of a party congress, many of the 2,000 members cheered calls from the podium for stricter measures against "Islamic symbols of power" and jeered at a plea for dialogue with Germany's Muslims.
"Islam is foreign to us and for that reason it cannot invoke the principle of religious freedom to the same degree as Christianity," said Hans-Thomas Tillschneider, an AfD politician from Saxony-Anhalt, to thunderous applause.
For her part, Chancellor Merkel refutes the call to reject Muslims, saying that freedom of religion is a right guaranteed by Germany's constitution. She has also claimed on numerous occasions that Islam belongs to Germany a claim highly contested by an increasing number of her constituents many of whom say they can no longer support her – that she is selling out the country.
Just last year, the head of the German Police Union said that Merkel was “wrong and that her policies of admitting so many un-vetted refugees was causing a rise in street crime and was greatly increasing security risks and the likelihood of terrorist attacks.”.
The share break between the far left, who supports Muslim immigration and the nationalists saw roughly 2,000 left-wing demonstrators clash with police last Saturday as they tried to break up the first full AfD conference before it main speakers appeared on Sunday.
The clash became violent as police detained 500 people and 10 law enforcement officers received light injuries, a police spokesman said.
The AfD has adopted a manifesto and one of its chapters is entitled "Islam is not a part of Germany".
According to the newspaper Das Spiegel, “The manifesto calls for a ban on minarets, the towers on Islamic mosques symbolic for the where the call to Muslim prayers are made. It also wants to ban the burqa, the total body cover up worn by many conservative Muslim women.
Germany is currently home to nearly four million Muslims, about five percent of the total population. While Muslims have long been a part of German society most in the past came from Turkey and were seen as more assimilating compared to the recent influx coming from more religiously militant areas of the Middle East.
In addition, most of the longer established Muslim Turkish community in Germany came to find work, but those who have arrived over the past year have mostly been fleeing conflicts in Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan. There have been well-documented cases showing some of those arriving as “refugees” used fraudulent passports and some had links to terrorist organizations.
Just last month the head of Germany's Central Council of Muslims (GCCM) compared the AfD's attitude towards his community with that of Adolf Hitler's Nazis towards the Jews.
“The Muslim community continues to try and exploit Germanys’ national angst over its Nazi past to lessen resistance to more immigration, but the people are waking up to the fact that one has nothing to do with the other. German has been so prosperous and culturally rich precisely for the attributes the Muslim community rejects and if Germans don’t recognize this we risk losing our country,” said Tillschneider