‘Muslim’ gargoyle adorns French cathedral
A Muslim stonemason in France has been immortalised by having his face carved on a gargoyle on the side of the medieval cathedral in Lyon.
Ahmed Benzizine - a 59-year-old master mason who worked on the renovation - was used as a model for the carving.
Next to it is an inscription in Arabic and French which reads: Allahu Akbar, God is Great.
But a local far-right group has said the carving is an affront to the Catholic Church.
Fellow stonemason Emmanuel Fourchet decided to carve the gargoyle, nicknamed Ahmed, in tribute to his friend, with whom he has worked on the renovation of religious buildings for several decades.
“I’m a Frenchman and a practising Muslim and I’ve always worked on historic monuments. I could work on mosques or synagogues as well,” Mr Benzizine told the AFP news agency.
“I have a lot of respect for sacred places,” he said, adding it had been a tradition since the church was first built in the 12th Century for stonemasons to appear as caricatures on gargoyles.
In history, gargoyles were always profane figures and a chance for irony and satire”
But the carving has been denounced by Les Jeunes Identitaires Lyonnais, a right-wing group which says it defends the region’s traditional “ethnic and cultural identity”.