Arthur Wagner, a prominent member of a German far-right political party ‘Alternative für Deutschland’ (AfD), known for its anti-Muslim rhetoric has converted to Islam and resigned from his leadership role in the party.
Wagner was a leading member of AFD eastern Brandenburg state chapter, whose slogan “Islam doesn’t belong in Germany” encapsulates its extreme nativist and anti-Muslim views.
The AfD, which is now the third-largest political party in Germany after its stunning success in last September’s elections, claims Islam is incompatible with the German constitution. The right wing party has tried to ban the construction of mosques in Germany and run ads reminiscent of World War II-era Nazi propaganda warning of the threat posed by Muslims coming into Germany.
Wagner himself in the past has accused German Chancellor Angela Merkel of making a “huge mistake” by allowing so many Muslim refugees into the country and warned that “Germany is mutating into a different country,” according to German media.
AFD official spokesperson Daniel Frieser while confirming said, “Mr. Wagner was a member of our national executive committee for a long time but resigned some time ago for private reasons.”
“Wagner resigned on January 11″ Frieser said, and “only afterwards was it known that he had converted to Islam.”
The 48 year-old father of two refused to comment on his decision to convert, telling Tagesspiegel newspaper “That’s my private business” adding that it had been his decision to leave the party.
But German media reports that Wagner has been spending his free time doing volunteer work with Muslim immigrants, including providing translation help to Chechen immigrants, since he speaks Russian and is of Russian descent. That personal interaction seems to have been the catalyst for his change of heart.
Wagner is far from the first person to radically change his views of Islam after spending time with Muslims or engaging with Islam’s sacred texts.
In the wake of the 9/11 terror attacks, the United States experienced a spike in the number of Muslims in the country. While some of that was undoubtedly due to immigration, a significant portion came from Americans converting to Islam.
Wagner, who formerly belonged to the Christian Democrats and joined the AfD in 2015, is an active member of the German-Russian community and the vice-chair of the regional Russian-German committee. He has also acted as a translator for refugees from Chechnya.