French Politicians Blast Fast Food Chain's New Halal Menu
A move by a French fast food chain to offer halal menus at a handful of restaurants had some politicians fuming, in the latest row over France's increasingly visible Muslim minority, AFP reported Thursday.
The Quick chain took pork off its menu in eateries in Roubaix, northern France, as well as in Marseille and the Paris suburb of Argenteuil to try to tap into the growing market of Muslim customers.
But politicians from the left and right complained that the switch to no-bacon hamburgers, launched three months ago in November, deprived non-Muslims of their right to the standard menu.
Roubaix mayor Rene Vandierendonck planned to file a complaint for discrimination, arguing that non-Muslims now had to trek to the suburbs to get a bacon burger, as Quick was the only fast food place in the city center.
"I'm not bothered by the fact that there is a halal menu," said the mayor.
"But this is going too far because it is the only menu on offer, and it has become discrimination."
French far-right politician Marine Le Pen suggested the Halal menus provided a financial boost to Muslim organizations that certify meat as being slaughtered in accordance with Islamic practices.
He condemned the menu switch as "unacceptable" and denounced it as a form of Islamization.
In cities and towns across France, Quick's red-and-white signs are as familiar a sight as McDonald's golden arches, offering the usual array of hamburgers, fries and soft drinks.
But in eight of Quick's 350 restaurants, the "Strong Bacon" double cheese hamburger was not on offer, replaced by a halal version with smoked turkey.
The government frowned on Quick's decision, suggesting that it was a form of "communautarisme," a pejorative term suggesting that a group exhibits a ghetto attitude.
Home to Europe's biggest Muslim minority - estimated at between five and six million - France remained caught up in a series of controversies that highlight its unease with Islam in a strictly secular society.
President Nicolas Sarkozy's government was drafting legislation to ban the wearing of the full Islamic veil and was sponsoring a debate on national identity that exposed the public's fears about immigration.
Responding to the hubbub over the halal hamburgers, the head of France's Muslim Council called for reason to prevail and announced he planned to meet with Quick's owners.
"Halal and kosher restaurants have been around for a long time," Mohammed Moussaoui said.
"Quick is the first fast food chain to offer a full halal menu, but it is only in a few of its restaurants.
"There are plenty of restaurants that do not offer halal meals, and Muslims are not complaining of discrimination."
Quick manager Luc Demain, who runs the outlet in Roubaix among others, said there was a slight increase in business since the new halal menus were introduced and that he had not received complaints from customers.
But Lionnel Lucca, a deputy from Sarkozy's right-wing UMP party, called for a boycott of Quick to press for "freedom of choice to be restored" at the fast food outlets.