Archbishop of Cologne slams Germany's anti-Islam party: 'Mosques are equal to churches'

The Catholic Archbishop of Cologne has slammed Germany's anti-Islam party, Alternative for Deutchsland (AfD).

Rainer Woelki posted a video where he ridiculed the right-wing party's claim that Islam is incompatible with the German constitution. The archbishop's intervention comes after the anti-immigration party said it would press for bans on minarets and burqas.

YouTubeThe Archbishop of Cologne was installed into his post by Pope Francis in 2014.

"Anyone who denigrates Muslims as the AfD leadership does should realise prayer rooms and mosques are equally protected by our constitution as our churches and chapels," he said.

"Whoever says 'yes' to church towers must also say 'yes' to minarets."

The AfD has grown in prominence putting pressure on the German Chancellor Angela Merkel by winning three regional elections in March.

Earlier this month AfD deputy leader Beatrix von Storch told the Frankfurter Allgemeine Sonntagszeitung: "Islam is in itself a political ideology that is not compatible with the constitution.

"We are in favour of a ban on minarets, on muezzins and a ban on full veils," added von Storch, who is a member of the European Parliament.

However the archbishop questioned whether "one really has to take the AfD seriously".

He said: "The religion of Islam is compatible with the German constitution just as Judaism or Christianity are."

He continued: "Those who question the freedom of belief and religion guaranteed by our constitution should as themselves whether they haven't left the grounds of the constitution with their fear-fanning postulations.

"We do not need any such alternative for Germany. The freedom of religion in our country is without alternative.

"It is especially our painful German history," he said. "Never again must people in this country be marginalised or persecuted for their race, ethnicity or religion."