By Nick Hallett
A French mayor has appeared in court on charges of inciting racial hatred after saying there were too many Muslim schoolchildren in his city.
Robert Ménard, who is mayor of the southern town of Béziers and an ally of Marine Le Pen’s Front National party, faces the charges after telling a news channel: “In a class in the city centre in my town, 91 per cent of the children are Muslims. Obviously, this is a problem. There are limits to tolerance.”
RTL reports that he also tweeted: “These classes represent the most striking proof of the #GreatReplacement in progress. Just look at old class photos.”
The ‘great replacement’ is a term coined by writer Renaud Camus who spoke of the French people being “replaced” through mass immigration. His comments led to him being fined in 2014.
However, Mr. Ménard has remained defiant in court, saying he did not want to “stigmatise” anyone but say what is happening in French schools.
“I do not find it desirable for children and their mothers that there are ghetto schools. And to find solutions, it is necessary to say what it is,” he told the court.
The former Socialist and co-founder of Reporters Without Borders faces a fine 1,800 euros if convicted, with a possible prison sentence if he does not pay within 60 days.
He also caused controversy in May 2015 when he counted the names of schoolchildren in his city to see how many were Muslim, estimating a figure of 64.6 per cent, despite the fact collecting data on people’s race and religion is illegal in France.
A video also emerged in September 2015 showing Mr. Ménard going door to door around illegal migrant squats, telling the residents they were not welcome in his city.
The video showed him in full mayoral regalia accompanied by armed police and an interpreter.
He tells one man: “You are not welcome in this town. If you had behaved like a decent person, you would have been welcome. You might be welcomed acting like this in big cities, but I’m not ready to do that here. You act like we have no choice but to accept you.”