Halal food tax proposed in France to fund mosques

Anouar Kbibech, president of the French Council of the Muslim Faith (CFCM), outlined plans for a new foundation that would help reduce foreign benefactors amid concerns over extremism.

The idea has been supported by politicians on both the right and left, although there are doubts where such a tax could be implemented.

“The idea has existed since the CFCM was founded,” Kbibech said.

“We have reached the first step with the signing with of a religious framework in the CFCM’s halal charter, which defines the criteria of halal in France.

“In autumn we will discuss the second part, which is the financial contribution of halal organisations to worship.”

The money raised would go towards paying imams’ salaries and funding the construction and operation of mosques, which cannot receive state support under French law.

The proposal came after Manuel Valls called for a ban on foreign funding for Muslim places of worship amid concerns over extremism following a string of terror attacks.

“There needs to be a thorough review to form a new relationship with French Islam,” he said.

“We live in a changed era and we must change our behaviour. This is a revolution in our security culture…the fight against radicalisation will be the task of a generation.”

Nathalie Goulet, a French senator for Orne who conducted a report on the issue, said the creation of a central and transparent foundation was a priority but cast doubt on a halal tax.

“Legally, it is not possible to reduce a tax on a religious item,” she said.

“And technically, a ‘halal tax’ would be impossible to implement because there is no unity around the concept of halal.

“What would be possible is that representatives of the religion themselves introduce a private fee for service at the time of slaughter, to be set by the community, collected and sent to the foundation.”

There has been continued controversy over the sale of halal food in France, with a supermarket in Colombes ordered to sell pork and alcohol or face closure this week.

Middle-class Muslims fuel halal boom in France

A boom in sales of halal products, including alcohol-free bubbly and goose liver paté approved by Islamic law, is being driven by the emergence of an affluent middle class of young Muslims in France. Known as the beurgeois – a play on bourgeois and the word beur, slang for a French person of North African descent – these new consumers are behind a rapidly expanding and highly profitable market in halal food and drinks.

With spending power worth an estimated €5.5bn a year these under-40s are forcing international food suppliers to cater for their demands. Younger members of France’s estimated 5 million-strong Muslim community – with whom relations have been strained by the recent debate on national identity and threats by Nicolas Sarkozy’s right-of-center government to ban the burqa – are asserting their economic muscle. As one French website put it, halal is “very good business” for French companies.

French sociologist questions the current halal polemic in France

In this opinion piece in Libération, Florence Blackler, sociologist at the Institute for Research and Studies on the Arab and Muslim World (Institut de recherché sur le monde arabe et musulman), argues that the recent debate about halal meat in the Quick restaurants in France is overstated. Blackler claims that in the last ten years halal meats is widely available, and it is the politicization of Islam which has created the news story.

French Politicians Amara and Duflot respond to the quick halal controversy

In the wake of the Quick fast-food chain’s decision to offer halal meat products, French politicians Fadela Amara and Cécile Duflot weigh in that the complaints against the possibility are excessive. Amara explained that because as a private business Quick does not offer public services they should be able to sell whatever they please. The consumer can choose. The real problem, she added, is that “elites in this country don’t accept its diversity . . . secularism is respecting the practices of one another.” Duflot warned of Islamophobia: “No one is chocked that there’s a kosher Franprix [grocery store].”

Le Figaro points to a report on halal meats (see reports section of Euro-Islam website) which claims that 32 percent of meat prepared in French abattoirs is halal or kosher, and is sometimes sold as non-halal.

Le Figaro claims more Muslims eating halal in France

According to a new study by Ifop, almost 60 percent of Muslims in France regularly purchase halal meats. Generally, about ¾ of the sample claimed to purchase halal. Those who are most apt to eat halal are the older generation, who appear to have more access and possibility to purchase these meat products. Interestingly, 44 percent of those who prefer halal meats are not regular mosque attenders.