An immigrant from Russia who has been active in the nationalist Alternative for Germany party for years surprised fellow members recently by announcing he'd converted to Islam.

The party's official position is that the religion has no place in Germany, but Ahmad Wagner thinks he can build bridges between conservatives and Muslims.

Speaking to reporters in Potsdam, near Berlin, late Wednesday, Wagner says he doesn't want to leave the party.

Most Muslims are concerned about the rise of AfD, which came third in last year's national elections after campaigning heavily against Islam and immigration.

The party's regional chapter insists Wagner is not being pushed out. Still, its local leader, Andreas Kalbitz, restated the party's view that Islam "poses a great threat to the state, to our society and our values."