As It Happens

'It's our country. Our culture': German far-right politician Beatrix von Storch

The right-wing anti-Islam party Alternative for Germany (AfD) says their strong showing in state elections demonstrates Germany is ready to adopt staunch anti-immigration policies. As It Happens host Carol Off speak with Deputy Leader Beatrix von Storch.
Beatrix von Storch at the party congress of the anti-immigration party Alternative for Germany (AfD) (REUTERS/Wolfgang Rattay)

The state elections in Germany don't have the power to topple a government. But the results over the weekend in Chancellor Angela Merkel's home constituency were ominous. 

Chancellor Merkel's Christian Democrats party slid down to third place in the exit polls. Just above them, in second place, was a party running in its first state elections: Alternative for Germany, or AfD.

AfD is running on an anti-Islam, anti-refugee platform. And in Mecklenburg-West Pomerania, the party received 21 per cent of the vote. It's a remarkable result for a party that is only three years old, running in its first regional election.

AfD (Alternative for Germany) member Beatrix von Storch, right, and Leif-Erik Holm, left, top candidate of the AfD in Schwerin, in on Sunday, Sept. 4, celebrate their strong showing in state elections, in the German federal state of Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania. (AP Photo/Michael Sohn)

Beatrix von Storch is the deputy leader of the AfD. She is also a member of the European parliament. She spoke with As it Happens host Carol Off from Brussels. Here is part of their conversation.

Carol Off: Ms. von Storch, why was your party so successful on the weekend? What was the appeal?

Beatrix von Storch: We're addressing the problems the people really care about. And we do it in a very honest way. And we do not try to declare that everything is easy. Of course the major subject in the election has been the migration crisis. This is the problem people care most about.

People react to first exit polls during the Mecklenburg-Vorpommern state election at the anti-immigrant Alternative for Deutschland (AfD) post election venue in Schwerin, Germany, September 4, 2016. REUTERS/Joachim Herrmann - RTX2O37K (Joachim Herrmann/Reuters)

CO: When your party was launched in 2013, you were more focused on the Eurozone and the economy. There has been a shift toward the policy about refugees, and about Islam. Why did you make that shift?

BvS: We did not make a shift. We had that from the very beginning in our program. It's just that the media, of course, is always picking up on those issues which are talked about most. Even in 2013 we were calling on a migration law to have regulated migration into Europe and Germany. 

CO: You might understand why people would focus on that, giving that you have said in the past that it's OK for police to shoot refugees at border crossings. Have you modified that position at all?

BvS: We made very clear that we don't want to shoot at anybody. What we realize is that there's in Europe — or close to Europe — only one head of state who's shooting at refugees and killing refugees. This is Mr. Erdogan (President of Turkey) — who is, in the name of Germany, protecting the European borders. And this is what we do not want. What we can see in all the other European countries who have closed down the borders — they have got the political will, and so they do not need any weapons. And actually Merkel is the only one who's responsible for deaths [and] shooting at the border.

CO: But you have said "the use of firearms against children is not permitted. Women are a different matter. The use of weapons against them can therefore be permitted within a narrow legal framework." Are you denying that that's something you said?

BvS: I'm denying that we want to shoot at anybody — that this is what we want. I was just quoting the German law. This is the only point I made. And I made very clear then that we don't want to shoot. We don't want to use the German law, which is the way I was quoted.

CO: But police should shoot if they have to.

BvS: No. This is the whole point. One can protect its own borders without any shooting.

CO: Do Muslims have a place in Germany today?

It's our country. It's our culture. It's our history. We are [of] Christian origin.- Beatrix von Storch

BvS: Yes, they have. We are very much speaking out for religious freedom and practice of belief. But we also have a very clear point on Islam. Islam in most interpretations is a political ideology, and it is claiming political power. It does not distinguish between religion and society. So this is why we say Islam does not belong to Germany. But of course, Muslims who accept our law and constitutions —  they're most welcome. Our message to them is if you practice your belief, that's fine. What we do not accept is your Sharia Law. It's our law which is binding. And Sharia is a very important part of Islam of lots of Muslims. And we're asking them to deny Sharia Law as above our law. It's our country. It's our culture. It's our history. We are [of] Christian origin. 

For more on this story, and why Beatrix von Storch thinks thousands of migrants in Germany should be deported, listen to our full interview.