‘Banning mosques is equal to banning Islam’

The Merkez mosque in Duisburg, Germany © Ina Fassbender
The German right wing’s idea to ban mosques would mean forbidding Islam - which is against freedom of religion and has to be fought against by democratic forces, says Farid Hafez, Professor of Islamic Studies, the University of Salzburg.

A branch of the anti-immigrant Alternative for Germany party in Lower Bavaria is proposing to close down mosques across the country. Despite the leader of AfD's Bavaria-wide federation distancing himself from the plan, many are concerned about the rise of Islamophobia in Germany and throughout Europe.

Hugh Bronson, of the Berlin AFD party branch said he wouldn’t pay too much attention to the idea since it was put forward by a very small group of his party, “a local branch of a local branch.”   

“This is not the main policy of the Alternative for Germany, it is not in our draft program,” he told RT. “We will have a big party conference at the end of April to decide what our outlines will be and the idea of closing mosques is not part of this draft.”  

He went on to say that there would always be small groups with views different from what the main party wants to achieve.

“We have local discussions about this – one consequence of the very extreme view was to dissolve the whole federal charter of AfD in Saarland. The federal board decided to close down the charter and set it up anew. So, we are going to extreme measures to make sure that our party is a democratic party and extreme right-wing views have no place in the AfD,” he said.

Farid Hafez, Professor of Islamic Studies at the University of Salzburg argues that the suggestion by the AfD group in Lower Bavaria is no surprise given the spread of Islamophobia in Europe. In his view, it is largely the media that is to be blamed for its rise.   

“We have seen throughout Western Europe a number of citizens’ movements as well as right-wing political parties have tried to mobilize their electorate while demonstrating against mosques, also trying to forbid the building of minarets as we have seen in Switzerland or the building of mosques and minarets as it has happened in two counties in Austria. So, this is nothing new because the minarets and mosques actually stand for the religion of Islam as a whole. It is taken as a symbol, by forbidding the construction of mosques and minarets it is basically just forbidding the religion of Islam. And I think the very core idea of this is actually very much against the freedom of religion and thus it has to be fought against by all the democratic forces in society. So, if AfD says: ‘We don’t want to have that,’ then I would welcome this,” he said.

The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of RT.