German far-right party hardens anti-Muslim course

The Alternative for Germany party started the year by railing against Muslims, ending months of relative post-election calm and any remaining doubt about its hardening far-right course.

If the AfD had been at pains to portray itself as a patriotic conservative force after the September 24 polls, the latest slur signaled that an extremist faction is winning the battle for control, say political scientists.

“The radical course has been cemented,” said Hajo Funke of Berlin’s Free University, adding that the AfD was now openly reaching out to the right-wing extremist fringe, including neo-Nazis and white-pride Identitarians.

Funke said the former anti-euro party had steadily radicalized, purged its more moderate figures, built bridges to groups such as the anti-Islam Pegida street movement, and had never publicly expelled a far-right member.

While the AfD’s declared enemy, Chancellor Angela Merkel, has been struggling to form a new government with the Social Democrats, the AfD has barely been out of the headlines in recent weeks.

In a familiar pattern, its provocations have been followed by vague apologies but also complaints about “political correctness” and censorship by a liberal media and political “thought police”.

Meanwhile, long-unthinkable content has appeared on social media despite tough new rules against online hate speech.

Days ago, said Funke and news reports, an AfD local politician in Berlin’s multicultural Neukoelln district, Franziska Lorenz-Hoffmann, briefly posted a Nazi-era propaganda poster on Facebook that warned the “German woman” to “keep your blood pure”.

AfD deputy leader Beatrix von Storch started 2018 by attacking police in the western city of Cologne for tweeting in Arabic, as well as in German, English and French, on New Year’s Eve.

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