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German politician who once led anti-Muslim campaign converts to Islam

Thursday January 25, 2018 2:33 PM, Agencies

Arthur Wagner

Arthur Wagner, a member of the far-right Alternative for Germany (AfD) party, known for its anti-Muslim rhetoric, has surprised observers by converting to Islam.

Arthur Wagner sat on the party's executive committee in the state of Brandenburg but recently stepped down for reasons he says are unrelated.

Arthur Wagner was a leading member of a state chapter of the Alternative for Germany (AfD) party, whose slogan “Islam doesn’t belong in Germany” encapsulates its extreme nativist and anti-Muslim views.

Wagner has called his decision to convert to Islam “a private matter” and declined to comment further to the press.

"That's my private business," he told the daily.

But German media reports that Wagner has been spending his free time doing volunteer work with Muslim immigrants, including providing translation help to Chechen immigrants, since he speaks Russian and is of Russian descent. That personal interaction seems to have been the catalyst for his change of heart.

On the party's Brandenburg state committee, Wagner's work focused on churches and faith communities, according to Deutsche Welle.

The AfD has campaigned against refugees and migrants and made history when it won 12.6 percent of the vote in federal elections in September 2017, entering the Bundestag for the first time.

The party became the third largest party in the Bundestag.

The news sparked derision on social media, with many Twitter users pointing to the irony of Wagner converting to Islam after being a high-ranking member of a party that has railed against the presence of Muslims in Germany.

"Creeping Sharia picks up speed as politician from Germany's islamophobic AfD converts to Islam", Emily Dische-Becker said.

"I really don't understand Nazis", Mark Berry said.

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