AfD Bayern.jpg
Photograph: Photo by Metropolico.org, used under CC BY-SA

The newest member of Germany's nationalist Alternative for Germany (AfD) party said Thursday that Islam was "less of a religion and more of a totalitarian movement," likening it to Nazism.

Nicolaus Fest, a journalist who left tabloid newspaper Bild in 2014 after coming under fire for an anti-Islam editorial he wrote, was speaking at a press conference Thursday to mark his debut at the AfD.

"We have to prevent the public exercise of this ideology," Fest said in Berlin.

"Just like I don't want to see swastikas or other Nazi symbols in public spaces, I do not want to see other symbols here that represent another totalitarian ideology," he said.

The use of Nazi symbols and slogans is illegal in Germany.

Fest, 54, left his role as deputy editor-in-chief at the tabloid's Bild am Sonntag Sunday edition in 2014 in response to criticism of an editorial in which he wrote that Islam was an impediment to the integration of immigrants in Germany.

In the article, Fest also referred to "disproportionate criminality among migrants with a Muslim background," and "Islam's contempt for women and homosexuals."

The ensuing controversy saw Fest's superiors at the newspaper distance themselves from the comments. Fest subsequently resigned citing his desire to pursue a career in freelance journalism.

The AfD launched as an anti-euro party in 2013, but has since seized on the refugee crisis and become increasingly focused on restricting immigration to Germany - particularly from Muslim-majority countries.

The AfD sits in 10 of Germany's 16 state parliaments and is likely to enter to Bundestag after next year's general election.

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