A neo-Nazi mayoral candidate for a German town was greeted with laughter when he promised to ban Arabic numerals displayed as house numbers if elected – unaware that they are the same as western numbers.
Otfried Best is running on an anti-immigration ticket for the ultra-right NPD party, in the small town of Volklingen in the district of Saarbrucken.
Along with three other candidates, he was questioned about his policies in a debate ahead of the election in front of an audience.
Uwe Faust, representing the satirical Die Partei, appeared to set a trap for Mr Best when he asked him a joke question over a supposed regulation in Volklingen.
“According to the building code, paragraph 126, each owner is obliged to label his property with the number given by the municipality,” he said.
“I find it alarming that in Völklingen many house numbers are displayed in Arabic numerals. How would you like to take action against this creeping foreigner infiltration?”
Mr Best replied: “You just wait until I am mayor. I will change that. Then there will be normal numbers.”
As he appeared to answer the question seriously, Stern magazine reported that around 600 audience members began howling with laughter.
He appeared to brush off the raucous crowd, adding: “Wait a moment, Mr Faust, until I’m Lord Mayor, and I’ll change that.”
Atef Alshaer, a lecturer on Arabic and Linguistics in the University of Westminster, told The Independent: “A German man actually translated Arabic numbers into the Western style used so it is incredible how ignorance can lead to this kind of political blindness.”
Arabic numbers are based on the decimal number system and originated in India in the 6th or 7th century, according to Encyclopaedia Britannica.
They were first brought to Europe in the 12th century by Arab mathematicians and paved the way for modern algebra.
The NPD party is accused of neo-Nazi links. Intelligence services in Germany have described it as racist and anti-Semitic.
But politicians in all of the country’s 16 states failed to outlaw the party in a bid through the Federal Constitutional Court.
It dismissed the appeal in January, saying the party’s concept “disregards human dignity” but there was no “concrete evidence” it could achieve its nationalist goals.
Register for free to continue reading
Registration is a free and easy way to support our truly independent journalism
By registering, you will also enjoy limited access to Premium articles, exclusive newsletters, commenting, and virtual events with our leading journalists
Already have an account? sign in
Join our new commenting forum
Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies