Germany’s anti-refugee right-wing political party, Alternative for Germany (AfD), has broken off talks with Muslim activists that aimed to extinguish the group’s hostility towards Islam.
AfD leader Frauke Petry said she had left the meeting Monday after an outstanding German Muslim figure refused to withdraw an earlier comparison of the AfD with Adolf Hitler’s Nazi party.
In April, the organizer of the talks Aiman Mazyek likened the attitude of the anti-Muslim and anti-immigration AfD political party toward the Muslim community to that of Adolf Hitler’s Nazi party.
Mazyek remarks came in reaction to AfD’s call for a ban on minarets and full veils as well as tight control over mosques and Islamic religious schools in Germany.
The AfD gained access to German state parliament with double-digit percentage after elections in the states of Baden-Württemberg, Rhineland-Palatinate, and Saxony-Anhalt.
The group’s popularity has soared amid the refugee crisis in Europe
as well as rising anger against German Chancellor Angela Merkel’ “open-door” asylum policy.
Earlier this month, the AfD party approved an anti-Islam policy manifesto that says Islam is not compatible with the constitution.
A refugee family carries their belongings during an evacuation operation by police forces of a makeshift refugee camp at the border at the Greek-Macedonian border near the village of Idomeni, on May 24, 2016. ©AFP
Mazyek censured Petry for walking out of the Monday meeting.
“Above all, the saying ’Islam doesn’t belong in Germany’ makes it clear that populism, defamation and the promotion of prejudice persist,” he said on Monday.
Muslims make up nearly five percent of the total population of Germany, which is home to some four million Muslims.
Europe is facing its worst refugee crisis since the end of World War II as vast numbers of asylum seekers fleeing conflict-ridden zones in Africa and the Middle East try to gain access to the continent.
The refugee crisis in Europe and a series of Daesh related terrorist attacks across the globe have led to the rise of Islamaphobia among racists and xenophobes in the West.
On Monday, an estimated 1,000 supporters of the German far-right anti-Islam PEGIDA movement staged a march in Dresden in protest at the German government’s asylum policy.
The protesters were carrying German flags and signs decrying German Chancellor Angela Merkel and refugees.
A counter-demonstration was held in the city where hundreds of demonstrators shouted at participants in the anti-refugee rally as they marched past. Police separated the two groups and no clashes were reported.
Right-wing crimes hit record high
The German Interior Minister Thomas de Maiziere said politically-motivated violent crimes by far-right activists had increased more than 40 percent in 2015.
“The sharp increase in politically motivated crime points to a dangerous development in society,” de Maiziere said at a press conference, citing the annual crime report,.
The report added that assaults against refugee centers rose to 1,031, compared to 199 in 2014, where 923 of them were by the far-right.
The interior minister predicted that the numbers would swell again this year as 347 such attacks were registered in the first quarter of 2016 alone.