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?"

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