Far-right AfD member converted to Islam in protest at acceptance of gay marriage in the church
A politician from the nationalist Alternative for Germany party (AfD) who shocked colleagues by converting to Islam says he did so because he was unhappy with the church’s acceptance of gay marriage.
Arthur Wagner made headlines around the world last week after it emerged that he had become a Muslim.
The AfD, which last year became the first nationalist party to win seats in the German parliament since the sixties, campaigns on an openly anti-Muslim platform. One of its elections slogans was “Islam has no place in Germany.”
But to the dismay of party colleagues, Mr Wagner now says he wants to remain in the party and build bridges with between German Muslims and mainstream society.
The 48-year-old, who has changed his name to Ahmad, initially refused to comment when his conversion became public last week.
But he came forward in an interview to explain his decision in an interview with Bild newspaper.
“One of the reasons was the way the church has changed, which I don’t understand any more,” Mr Wagner, who was previously a devout Christian and member of his local Protestant church said.
“It’s their attitudes to the AfD, to gay marriage,” he said. He also said he was unhappy that Protestant pastors had taken part in a gay rights parade in Berlin. “With children there! That’s just not right,” he said.
A German citizen of Russian heritage, Mr Wagner said he decided to convert to Islam as long ago as 2015, during a visit to the Russian city of Ufa, home to a large Muslim Tatar community.
Remarkably, that means he was campaigning for the AfD’s anti-Muslim message for several years after deciding to become a Muslim.
He converted last October but kept it secret at first because he didn’t know what to say to his party colleagues.
He says he has received threatening letters since his conversion became public. “I get letters telling me to get out of Germany before I start making bombs,” he said.
He resigned as deputy leader of a local AfD chapter in his home state of Brandenburg but says he wants to remain in the party.
“I learned he’d become Muslim in the newspaper. I’m really disappointed,” Kai Berger, the head of the local party chapter said. “A lot of our members expect him to leave the AfD, but unfortunately we can’t expel him.”