Halal Becomes Political Issue in France
February 24, 2012 (ABNA)
“There is no controversy here,” French President Nicolas Sarkozy told supporters in Rungis in the southern suburb of Paris on Tuesday, February 21, Agence France-Presse (AFP) reported.
“Every year we consume 200,000 tonnes of meat in the Paris region and 2.5 percent of it is kosher or halal.”
Marine Le Pen, the leader of the far-right National Front party, said last week that all meat in Paris was halal.
“All the abattoirs of the Paris region have succumbed to the rules of a minority. We have reason to be disgusted,” Le Pen told a rally in Lille on Saturday.
Adding to the controversy, a documentary was aired by France 2 alleging that slaughterhouses around Paris have switched meat production entirely to halal methods.
The documentary said that all the abattoirs in the greater Paris region were producing only halal meat, selling some without labeling it as such to avoid the cost of running separate lines for halal and non-halal customers.
The concept of halal — meaning permissible in Arabic — has traditionally been applied to food.
Muslims should only eat meat from livestock slaughtered by a sharp knife from their necks, and the name of Allah, the Arabic word for God, must be mentioned.
Halal meat is a booming market in France and growing demand for it on school, hospital and company canteen menus has already caused tension and misunderstandings between Muslims and non-Muslims.
Officials say most of the meat consumed in and around Paris is slaughtered outside the region and much of it still comes from slaughterhouses that use non-halal methods.
Home to Western Europe’s largest Muslim minority, estimated at between five and six million, France has for years been debating how far it is willing to go to accommodate Islam, now the country’s second religion.
The country has come under fire from Muslim groups for a series of measures authorities say are aimed at protecting France’s secular tradition, including a ban on wearing hijab (headscarf) and full-face veils such as niqab and the burqa.