Religion v secularism: Appeals court orders French prison to provide halal meals to Muslims

March 26, 2014


A French prison has been told it must provide halal meals for its Muslim prisoners on Wednesday, pushing the debate of secularism against Islam into the limelight again, AFP reports.

Saint-Quentin-Fallavier prison was instructed to supply halal meals, in order to fulfil the rights of those practicing Islam, despite Justice Minister Christiane Taubira contesting the ruling.

The justice ministry argued that it is not practical to separate food or to change catering arrangements, which was rejected by an appeals court ruling that halal meals could easily be organized into the prison system.

According to AFP, Alexandre Ciaudo, the lawyer representing the prisoner who started the case, said: “It is a new setback for the justice minister. The prison now has to implement the ruling.”

France’s government disputes the case and claims Muslim prisoners are given the choice of vegetarian and pork free meals.

The clash over halal meals shadows French policies on religious freedoms such as the ban of wearing veils and similarly, if educational establishments should provide halal catering for Muslim children.

Last month, Denmark banned halal and kosher slaughtering, bringing worldwide condemnation from both Muslims and Jews, who say their religious freedoms are being limited.

European attitudes towards halal and kosher meat are increasingly changing as animal rights groups have criticized the practice of halal-kosher meat, which involves no pre-stunning of the animal prior to slaughter.

There are an estimated five million Muslims living in France, many of whom felt marginalized by France’s decision to ban any form of religious observance in state schools since 2011.