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New German anti-Muslim party calls Islam 'totalitarian'
From The National, newspaper of the United Arab Emirates.
BERLIN // The leader of a newly created anti-Islamic party in Germany said he wants to stop the immigration of Muslims and described Islam as a "totalitarian system" bent on supplanting western liberal values.
In an interview with The National, Rene Stadtkewitz, 46, said Muslims were not integrating into German society as well as other immigrants and that authorities should become stricter, by banning headscarves in school, stopping public funding for teaching young children the Quran and curbing the influence of Islamic organisations.
"Islam is far more than a religion. It's an entire model of society that is incredibly binding for many people," he said. "It's basically a political system with its own legal system that seeks to regulate all aspects of life. We criticise the socio-political component of Islam, which I see as an ideological one similar to other totalitarian systems, and which I think is dangerous."
He called Islam "the opposite of a free society" and said the faith posed a threat because it sought to instil different values in Germany, and because it encouraged immigrants to segregate themselves.
Mr Stadtkewitz, a former member of Chancellor Angela Merkel's conservative Christian Democratic Union (CDU), set up his party, Freedom, last October. He had been expelled from the CDU's parliamentary group in the Berlin city assembly for inviting Geert Wilders, the controversial Dutch Islam critic and head of the Party for Freedom, to Berlin for a conference.
Germany has had no populist, anti-Islamic party until now. Opinion polls suggest a party such as Freedom could get some 20 per cent of the vote in a general election. A recent survey commissioned by Berliner Zeitung, a local newspaper, showed as many as one in four Berliners could imagine voting for it.
Mr Stadtkewitz said his party now had 1,400 members and was setting up regional branches across Germany. It plans to contest its first election in September when Berlin votes for a new mayor and city parliament.
Mr Stadtkewitz denied accusations that he was a far-right populist. He said his party was espousing mainstream views about Islam and was part of an "uprising" by people across Europe against growing Islamic influence.
"Anyone who criticises Islam stands in the centre of society," he said. "Islam is becoming more visible in western countries and people are starting to rise up against that."
In a sign that Freedom will face a struggle establishing itself, the party had to cancel its first congress this month because the language school that owned the venue withdrew its permission when it found out about the party's political leanings. When he tried to hold a news conference on the street in front of the building, a group of 30 left-wing demonstrators surrounded him chanting "Nazis" and "racists", and dozens of police were deployed to keep order.
Mr Stadtkewitz said his party's platform closely resembled that of Mr Wilders, who has called for a ban on the Quran in the Netherlands and whose party became the third-strongest force in the Dutch general election last June.
Mr Stadtkewitz said: "More than 15 million people in Germany are immigrants and most of them have integrated themselves. The problems are mainly with people who have come here from Islamic countries, and that's what we have to tackle. We must defend our own values much more strongly and stress that we have a leadership role. That will make integration easier."