European Jewish leaders have expressed concern following election wins in Germany for a right-wing party committed to banning male religious circumcision and the religious slaughter of animals.
Alternative für Deutschland (AfD) – or Alternative for Germany – took the continent by surprise on Sunday when it won widespread support for its anti-immigration message, with Jewish groups saying they were monitoring the situation.
“Jewish communities in Europe are closely following the rise of the AfD in Germany,” said Pinchas Goldschmidt, the chief rabbi of Moscow and president of the Conference of European Rabbis.
He added that AfD objections to religious slaughter of animals for food and male religious circumcision were not about animal and child welfare but “an insidious attempt at population control”.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel has been praised for her response to the migrant crisis, opening the country’s door to hundreds of thousands of people fleeing war in Syria, but at home, she is being increasingly criticised.
Bavarian conservative leader Horst Seehofer, one of her fiercest critics, this week said AfD’s wins signalled a “tectonic shift” in German politics and would mean changes to the way the country was handling the influx.
The weekend saw the AfD elected to three state parliaments, winning 15.1 percent in Baden-Württemberg, 12.6 percent in Rhineland-Palatinate and 24.2 percent in Saxony-Anhalt, a far-right stronghold.
Before the vote, Jewish groups had joined civic groups, police unions, aid organisations and Muslim representatives in a joint appeal urging voters to turn up and vote “against all forms of hate, racism, prejudices or violence”.