BERLIN (AP) — A German Muslim leader drew a parallel between a nationalist party and the Nazis on Monday after a prominent party member said that Islam is incompatible with Germany's constitution.
Alternative for Germany, or AfD, has seen its support swell on opposition to the migrant influx to Europe. It also has talked tough about Islam, which deputy leader Beatrix von Storch described in a weekend newspaper interview as "a political ideology that is incompatible with the constitution." She advocated a ban on minarets, muezzins and full veils.
Von Storch's comments came ahead of a congress April 30 at which the three-year-old AfD plans to debate and approve an official party program. A draft released last month didn't go as far, though it did state that Islam is not a part of Germany.
Aiman Mazyek, the head of Germany's Central Council of Muslims, retorted Monday that AfD itself "does not conform with the constitution."
He told NDR radio that "for the first time since Hitler's Germany, there is a party that discredits an entire religious community and existentially threatens it."
Senior AfD member Georg Pazderski criticized what he called a "shameless parallel." He was quoted as telling the Bild newspaper that AfD stands for religious freedom and the constitution, and "simply ignoring that is a malicious slur."
Chancellor Angela Merkel rejected the notion that Islam and the constitution are incompatible.
"We have constitutionally guaranteed freedom of religion in Germany, and that of course goes for Muslims in our country as well," she said. "Practice has shown that the overwhelming majority of Muslims here exercise their religion within the framework of the consititution."
Her spokesman, Steffen Seibert, noted that Merkel has said repeatedly that Islam is now a part of Germany, using a phrase then-President Christian Wulff coined in 2010.