A German politician for a far-right, anti-Islam party shocked the country by converting to Islam. Now he’s revealed the reason: He didn’t like that his Protestant faith was accepting of gay marriage.
Arthur Wagner — who now goes by the first name Ahmed—– has been thrust the spotlight since German media reported last week that he had secretly converted to Islam last year.
The revelation mystified members of his Alternative for Germany (Alternative für Deutschland, or AfD) party, which is staunchly opposed to Islam and holds that the religion has no place in Germany.
Wagner has resigned from his post as deputy head of a local AfD chapter in his home state of Brandenburg over the issue, and is facing calls from his colleagues for his expulsion from the party altogether. “Many members are waiting for him to quit the party. Unfortunately our statutes do not allow us to kick him out,” Kai Berger, the head of his local party chapter, told reporters.
But making his first public comments on the matter to German media Wednesday, Wagner said he wanted to remain a member of the AfD.
“I will always be faithful to AfD,” he told reporters, adding he wanted to work to build bridges between the party and German Muslims.
“I see my task as creating consensus between German Islam and conservative Germans.”
That wish may sound far-fetched to many of his co-religionists, who have been alarmed by AfD’s sudden rise in recent years that saw it finish third in general elections in September. The head of Germany’s Central Council of Muslims has described the party as a home for Islamophobes and racists.
Explaining his decision to Germany’s Bild newspaper, Wagner, 48, said that he had been motivated by the Protestant church’s tolerance of same-sex marriage, which he saw as evidence of its “moral decline.”
“One of the reasons is tied to changes that have taken place in the church, which no longer reflects my values,” he said, saying its acceptance of gay marriage, and the presence of pastors at gay pride parades was unacceptable in his view.
Though he converted in October, Wagner said he actually had made the decision to convert back in 2015 — meaning that he campaigned on the party’s anti-Islam platform after deciding he wanted to join the faith.
Cover image: Anti-immigration party Alternative for Germany (AfD) member Arthur Wagner, who recently converted to Islam and resigned from his post in the party leadership, holds a news conference in Potsdam near Berlin, Germany, January 31, 2018. REUTERS/Inke Kappeler