AfD meet with Muslim leaders breaks down in acrimony
A meeting between far-right party Alternative for Germany (AfD) and Muslim leaders ended bitterly on Monday after just an hour of talks.
It was meant to be a chance for the heads of Germany's rising far-right party to meet face-to-face with leaders of the Muslim community for clear-the-air talks.
But in the end the discussions were broken off after an hour with accusations being fired from both sides.
AfD leader Frauke Petry “wants to go further along the path of populism, defamation and above all prejudice,” Aiman Mazyek, president of the Central Council of Muslims, said after the meeting in Berlin.
For her part, Petry claimed Mazyek and his colleagues were calling for her to override the democratic will of her party.
“It was demanded of us to withdraw a democratically agreed party manifesto,” Petry told journalists after the meeting.
Mazyek had invited Petry to talks after the AfD decided upon a party manifesto earlier this month calling for a series of measures targeted at Islam, including bans on minarets and face veils being worn in public.
Mazyek had labelled the AfD “Nazis” in response to the leadership's plans before they were confirmed by members at a party congress and hoped he could use the meeting to convince Petry to withdraw those parts of the platform.
"We shouldn't given up hope," he said in a TV interview with public broadcaster ZDF on Monday morning. "Maybe they'll take it back."
The AfD's plans would inhibit Muslims' living standards and go against the constitution, he added, complaining that the party makes a habit of "generalized defamation" against Islam.
“We said that the constitution is non-negotiable and that that should be the basis for our conversation,” Mazyek said.
While there are around four million Muslims in Germany, the Central Council of Muslims is only backed by a small proportion of them, and there are competing civil society organizations that seek to represent Muslims' views.
No backing down
But Petry said she found Mazyek's comparison of her party with the politics of the Nazi period unacceptable and that she had broken off the talks for that reason.
She added that she had tried to ask questions about Islam and Sharia law and been rebuffed.
AfD head in Lower Saxony, Paul Hampel, who also attended the meeting, said they had found Mazyek's point that women might choose to wear Islamic veils or the burka of their own free will absurd.