The mayor of the southern French city of Beziers is facing heavy criticism and accusations of racism after sharply denouncing a Muslim group’s offer to protect a church during a Christmas midnight mass.
Robert Menard, elected mayor of Beziers’ 72,000 inhabitants in 2014 with the support of France’s nationalist party, Front National, didn’t pull any punches when condemning the Muslim initiative. Responding on the city’s website on December 26 in an entry titled “Muslim Guard: What Is the State Doing?” he wrote:
“A Muslim guard ‘protecting’ a Catholic church. Against whom? Hordes of Buddhist monks? Siberian shamans? Who are they mocking here? And where is this country going? Since when do the arsonists protect against fires?”
Menard, the former head of the respected ‘Reporters Without Borders’ organization, later pointed out that the proposal was simply a “foretaste of the Lebanisation of France” and that the Muslim group making the offer is led by “two activists known for their fundamentalist and anti-Israeli stances.” Menard stated the Muslim group made the same offer at the city’s 13th-century cathedral, adding he will inform police about this ‘Muslim guard’.
As expected, besides Muslims, France’s liberals and leftists were highly indignant, to say the least, that Menard had compared Muslims to arsonists. One group, SOS Racisme, said it will launch a complaint, calling Menard’s choice of words “insulting,” and accused him of wanting “to whip up hatred against Muslims.”
France’s interior minister, Bernard Cazeneuve, a member of the ruling Socialist Party that relies on the Muslim vote at election time, also entered the fray. On Twitter, the minister expressed his “respect for the Muslims who protected the churches at Christmas.”
One such church in Lens was reported to have “particularly appreciated” the Muslim presence. At the end of the mass, the priest invited the Muslims to come to the altar in order to hand them “the light of Bethlehem, the symbol of peace,” while the congregation applauded (see video here).
It’s too bad the priest didn’t ask them to also spread this message of peace among their Muslim co-religionists in present-day Bethlehem where Christians are persecuted.
Menard is no stranger to controversy. For example, after his fifth victory in court against France’s main human rights organization, the League of the Rights of Man (LRM), he had a photo published in the Bezier journal of a man spanking a woman, taken from the 1924 movie Girl Shy. Menard titled it: “Judicial Spanking: The LRM is visibly acquiring a taste here.” Underneath was written: Mayor of Beziers 5, LRM 0.
Naturally, Menard’s tongue-in-cheek choice of photos produced leftist outrage and accusations from French feminists that he was inciting violence against women.
This, and other politically incorrect actions by Menard, have angered France’s ‘bien-pensants’ (good-thinkers) to the point where socialist deputies in France’s National Assembly called last September for his removal from office. But after calling his socialist critics “completely stupid,” Menard stated: “It is time they understand that democracy is not reserved only for their friends.”
Menard believes the Muslim group approached the Beziers church at Christmas not because it wanted to help prevent Islamic terrorist attacks, like the ones that left 148 dead in France in 2015, but rather because of his own security initiative that would see an unarmed, but uniformed, volunteer force of citizens assist police. It would patrol streets and stand watch at buildings, connected to police headquarters by walkie-talkies.
City council had approved the creation of Menard’s ‘garde biterroise’, as it is called, shortly before Christmas. This new, volunteer force, Menard said, will remain in existence as long as France is under a state of emergency, declared after the November 13 Paris terrorist attack.
But a more sinister motive can be detected behind the seemingly “brotherly” Muslim offer to protect churches than simply a political manoeuvre to counter to Menard’s security initiative. First, some interpret as a provocation the fact that Muslim fundamentalists would pose as protectors of churches, especially on French soil, after the terrorism France experienced this past year.
Even more disturbing, by accepting the Muslim offer, France’s churches would simply be descending another step downwards towards their dhimmitude and that of their country. They would eventually resemble churches in Muslim countries that have to pay the special tax, the ‘jizya’, in order to survive (Even then, these churches still suffer attacks and burnings). One parish in a Danish city already pays Muslims to guard their church and cars during services, and even the parishioners themselves, against attacks by Muslim thugs.
The ‘garde musulmane’ concept is also socially divisive and therefore damaging. Especially after the 2015 terrorist carnage, such offers of protection would only serve to divide the two religious communities even more. Some could regard a Muslim protective force as offensive, since it infers Christians are too weak to protect themselves.
It is also unlikely that the sight of Muslim “protectors” would reassure all church-goers, possibly even scaring some. After all, which faith community is more likely to produce killers armed with kalashnikovs? And possibly use a security force as camouflage for a church attack? Besides, would Muslims like to see groups of Christians standing guard outside their mosques?
Rather than providing ‘protection’ to churches, it would serve community and inter-religious relations in France much better if French Muslims and their leftist allies, like SOS Racisme, would condemn and demonstrate massively against Christian persecution and attacks on churches in Muslim countries as well as against the murderous terrorist attacks in France. Such actions would definitely help people accept as sincere Muslim attempts to improve relations between the two communities.
In addition, instead of standing in front of churches, it would be time better spent if Muslim ‘protectors’ demonstrated in front of radical French mosques and Salafist prayer rooms where terrorists are produced. They could also constantly check to discover whether radicals are infiltrating other mosques, and identify and demand that dangerous, hate-spewing imams be deported.
The Muslim offer to protect churches does, however, serve one good purpose: It shows how bad the situation really is. French churches are in such danger of jihadi attacks that even Muslims believe they now need protection. The fact that Cazaneuve lauded Muslim ‘protectors’ indicates that he also believes churches are facing a threat.
Even more ominous, Cazaneuve’s tweet shows that the government, which should be the sole body responsible for state security, including that of churches, has abdicated that responsibility. Instead, he prefers to show respect to Muslim ‘protectors’ for what his government should itself be doing. Both the Catholic faithful and Muslim fundamentalists could interpret his actions as signs of state weakness.
But what can one expect from a government whose socialist prime minister, Manuel Valls, told graduating high school students earlier this year that they “will have to get used to living with the threat of terrorist attacks for a long period of time.” Which constitutes an admission of failure, even of defeat.
Facing such a state security failure, more French towns and cities should follow Menard’s lead and set up their own auxiliary security forces. Their inhabitants, of all religious faiths, could only appreciate more security after the horrific events of 2015. And thanks to Menard’s security initiative, for Beziers, the scoreboard should now read: Citizens 6, Socialist Incompetents 0.