I’m a little verklempt. Via AP, click photo to enlarge.
PARIS — A Muslim stonemason who spent nearly four decades helping to restore a Roman Catholic cathedral in France has been immortalized as a winged gargoyle peering out from its facade — with the inscription “God is great” written in French and Arabic.
It was conceived as a symbol of inter-religious friendship that reflects the city of Lyon’s links to its large Muslim population. But a widely publicized outcry from a small extreme-right group has forced the Archdiocese of Lyon into damage control.
“This has nothing to do with religion. It’s a sculptor who wants to pay homage to a construction site chief,” said the Rev. Michel Cacaud, rector of the cathedral. “That’s all.”
In France, where Islam is the country’s second religion, the government has worked to integrate Muslims into French culture, while at the same time confronting cases of Islamophobia, from the desecration of Muslim graves to attacks on mosques.
Ahmed Benzizine, who was born in Algeria, a former French colony, sees the gargoyle in his image as “a message of peace and tolerance.”
“When I started to work in churches … exactly 37 years ago, it was considered a sin that a Muslim enter a place of worship other than a mosque,” he said.
The Benzizine gargoyle had been in place for about six months without drawing much notice until the extreme-right Identity Youth of Lyon began a campaign denouncing the likeness of a Muslim on a Catholic institution, and the inscription “God is great” in French and Arabic — “Dieu est grand, Allahu akbar.”
Identity Youth of Lyon said on its website that the “clearly symbolic” inscription is “the manifestation of a conquering Islam.”
“How many ‘Ave Marias’ are inscribed on how many mosques?” it asked.
Same bull***t mem, “How many catholic churches are there in Saudi Arabia?”
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