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28 Dec, 2015 17:44

‘Fire-starters extinguishing flames’: French mayor blasts Muslims protecting churches at Christmas

The controversial mayor of the French town of Beziers, Robert Menard, has slammed a symbolic gesture by Muslims who stood guard at a local cathedral during midnight mass at Christmas, calling them ‘predators’ and ‘pyromaniacs.’

“It is like letting the fire-starters extinguish the flames,” Menard said of the Muslim initiative in an interview with RT.

“It is improper to let these people, who are friends with those threatening Christians all over the world, protect the residents of this city. They are the predators. They are the pyromaniacs,” he added.

According to the mayor, the action was staged by groups linked to radical Islam circles, without the backing of “the Muslim community of the town as a whole.”

“These are two Muslim communities who are very close to fundamental Islamists, and they are the ones who I am protesting against. One of them had a picture of Marianne – the statue that represents the Republic in France – with a head replaced with the Koran on his Facebook. When a person like this says that he is going to protect Christians – that is just outrageous,” the mayor said.

READ MORE: French mayor in hot water over ‘counting’ Muslim kids in schools

Menard first voiced his stance on the issue on Twitter and received a comment from French Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve, who wrote: “Respect for the Muslims who protected churches at Christmas. Harmony and fraternity in the republic.”

The mayor replied to Cazeneuve during his interview with RT, saying: “when I hear the French interior minister greeting and saying that he respects these Muslims, there are two explanations: either he is unaware of those he is talking about, or he knows and it’s terrible and dangerous.”

The Muslims in Beziers involved in the act said they were “shocked and saddened” by what the head of their city had said.

“What we have done is a symbolic gesture of coming together, holding hands. Having such a reaction from the mayor is appalling. That is all I have to say, I don’t want to go deeper into polemics. It is sad,” Said Talla, imam at the local Al-Rahma mosque, stressed.

The head of the Esprit Libre Beziers Association, Mehdi Roland, said that Menard “doesn’t want to see France in its current state.”

“France is a melting pot and always has been. That’s French wealth and power. It’s not the time to draw a line between citizens; to turn your back on that. This liberalization of ultra-right rhetoric is a radical phenomenon. That’s how it’s nourished, with such statements,” Roland explained.

READ MORE: France's 'Dirty Harry': Mayor under fire over police '7.65 caliber new friends' posters

Beziers is considered a right-wing stronghold in France, with the National Front receiving 45% of the votes in the town during the first round of recent regional elections.

Menard, who came to power with the party’s support, has made headlines on a regular basis due to his controversial policies.

He armed the local police with guns and was criticized for an advertising campaign that called the weapons the “new friends” of the security forces.

One edition of the Beziers city magazine also featured a picture of immigrants on its cover with the caption: “They are coming.”

In September, the mayor personally marched into a squat inhabited by Syrian refugees and told them they were "not welcome in this town.”