By David A. Graham
Last fall, Arthur Wagner was part of something remarkable: His political party, the anti-Islam, anti-immigrant Alternative für Deutschland, entered the Bundestag, becoming the first far-right party in the body since the 1950s. This year, Wagner has done something even more remarkable: He has converted to Islam and left AfD.
Wagner was a leading party official in the state of Brandenburg, and had been a representative since 2015. Deutsche Welle drily noted that Wagner is of Russian origin and “was a member of the state committee with responsibility for churches and religious communities.” A party spokesman told the paper his departure was personal. “The party has no problem with that,” the spokesman said of the conversion. Still, one can imagine his new religious identity would create some awkwardness with his old chums. AfD has, for example, used the slogan “Islam does not belong to Germany.”
Even stranger, Wagner is not the first person to leave a far-right, anti-Islam party in Europe and become a Muslim. Arnoud van Doorn, a member of Geert Wilders’s Dutch Freedom Party—which is another far-right, anti-Islam party—left it in 2011, converted to Islam in 2012, and soon after made hajj, the pilgrimage to Mecca Muslims are obliged to make at least once in their lifetimes. And in 2014, Maxence Buttey, a local councillor for the National Front (FN), France’s analogous far-right party, converted to Islam and was suspended from the party committee.
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