Lion's Dan: Germany’s Freiheit joins the fray

Opposed to Islamization yet conceived as mainstream, this new party could change the politics in Europe’s most influential nation.

Anew German political party, Die Freiheit (The Freedom), had its inaugural meeting on October 28 in Berlin. I was in town, so its leaders invited me to be the only nonmember to witness and report on its founding assembly.
As a reminder of how freedoms have eroded in Europe in this age of Islamist terror, a political party that resists Islamization and supports Israel cannot come into existence in broad daylight. So, like the other 50-plus attendees, I learned of the event’s time and location only shortly before it took place. For good measure, the organizers operated undercover; the hotel management only knew of a board election for an innocuously named company. Even now, I cannot mention the hotel’s name.
Much of the time was taken up with the legalisms required to register a political party in Germany: Attendance was taken, votes counted, organizational procedures explained, steps enumerated to contest Berlin elections in September 2011, and officers elected, including the chairman, René Stadtkewitz, 45. Of East German background, he is a member of the Berlin parliament who belonged to the ruling conservative CDU party until his expulsion a month ago for publicly hosting Dutch politician Geert Wilders.
For me, of chief interest was his oral summary of party policies, plus the distribution of a 71-page “Basic Program” detailing party positions. Stadtkewitz explained the need for a new German party on the grounds that “the established parties, unfortunately, are not ready to take a clear stand but instead abandon the people.”
The program neither minces words nor thinks small. Its opening sentence declares that “Western civilization, for centuries a world leader, faces an existential crisis.”
The new party, whose slogan is “the party for more freedom and democracy,” speaks candidly about Islam, Islamism, Islamic law and Islamization. Starting with the insight that “Islam is not just a religion but also a political ideology with its own legal system,” it calls for scrutiny of imams, mosques and Islamic schools, for a review of Islamic organizations to ensure their compliance with German laws, and condemns efforts to build a parallel legal structure based on Shari’a.
The program’s analysis forcefully concludes: “We oppose with all our force the Islamization of our country.”
Freiheit robustly supports Israel, calling it “the only democratic state in the Middle East. It therefore is the outpost of the Western world in the Arab theater. All democratic countries must show the highest interest in Israel’s free self-determination and security.
We explicitly commit ourselves to Israel’s right to exist.”
HOWEVER CLEAR these passages, as well as the rejection of Turkish accession to the European Union, they comprise only about 2% of the Basic Program, which applies traditional Western values and policies to German political life.
Its topics include German peoplehood, direct democracy, the family, education, the workplace, economics, energy, the environment, health and so on. Offering a wide platform makes good sense, fitting the anti-Islamization program into a full menu of policies.
Despite this, of course, press coverage of the founding emphasized Freiheit’s position vis-à-vis Islam, defining it as a narrowly “anti-Islam party.”
The establishment of Freiheit prompts two observations: First, while it fits into a pattern of emerging European parties that focus on Islam, it differs from the others in its broader outlook.
Whereas Wilder’s PVV blames nearly every societal problem on Islam, Freiheit, in addition to opposing “with all our force the Islamization of our country,” has many other issues on its agenda.
Second, Germany is conspicuously lagging behind most European countries with a large Muslim population in not having spawned a party that stands up against Islamization. That’s not for a lack of trying; previous attempts petered out. Late 2010 might be an auspicious moment to launch such a party, given the massive controversy in Germany over the Thilo Sarrazin book ruing the immigration of Muslims, followed by Chancellor Angela Merkel’s announcement that multiculturalism has “utterly failed.”
A change in mood appears to be under way.
The Freiheit party has been conceived as a mainstream, earnest and constructive effort to deal with an exceedingly complex and long-term problem. If it succeeds, it could change the politics in Europe’s most influential nation.
The writer ( is director of the Middle East Forum and Taube distinguished visiting fellow at the Hoover Institution of Stanford University.