Islamophobia and Racism in France: Shocking Indifference

November 27, 2013

 

Attacks on Muslim establishments are on the increase in France. Most recently, the Grand Mosquée in Paris was daubed with racist slogans. Islamophobia and xenophobia are also featuring more prominently in the public discourse. Bernhard Schmid reports

A shockwave – or just a ripple of surprise? On 23 November the French news agency AFP published a report stating that the number of “Islamophobic acts had risen again”. The report is based on data from the “National Monitoring Centre for Islamophobia” which claims that attacks on Muslims and Islamic establishments in the first nine months of this year have increased by 11.3 percent on the same period last year.

Attacks such as this one, among others: On 19 November, the walls of the Grande Mosquée de Paris – the capital’s oldest mosque established in 1927 – were sprayed with abusive statements. The warden of the mosque, Dalili Boubakeur, expressed his most profound regret at this expression of what he called “racist violence and hostility”.

This is no isolated incident: Recently in the southern French town of Lesparre-Médoc near Bordeaux, police arrested two men aged 24 and 39 alleged to have been responsible for daubing swastikas on the walls of the local mosque last summer. Both men confessed the following day.

New Quality of Racism

As though that were not enough: In early November the news broke that two mosques in Besançon had also been daubed with inflammatory slogans. The perpetrators had scrawled statements such as “Arabs Out!” and “France for the French!” on the walls, as well as swastikas. Similar slogans had been painted on the walls of a mosque in the southern French town of Carpentras two weeks previously – along a total length of 30 metres.

Racially motivated, anti-Islamic vandalism such as this is not the only cause for concern at the monitoring centre set up some time ago by the French “Representative Council of Muslims” (CFCM). An increase in physical attacks on Muslim women wearing a veil or other head covering is also “a new phenomenon”, as the centre ascertains in its latest report.

Attacks on Muslim women

The first incidences of this nature emerged in early 2013 in the satellite town of Argenteuil, northwest of Paris. There, unknown attackers beat up several Muslim women; a 19-year-old suffered a miscarriage in June as a direct result of her ordeal. Two protest rallies then took place in Argenteuil.

But because it was Salafist groups, among others, that tried to capitalize on the sense of outrage and took to the streets in protest, the demonstrations attracted little national interest. This meant that any sense of solidarity among elements of the population failed to emerge, to the chagrin of many of those affected, but also of anti-racist groups – even though the victim who had suffered a miscarriage was given the opportunity to present her complaint in person to the interior ministry in late June 2013, as a gesture of sympathy.

The monitoring centre has documented a total of 14 cases of physical violence against women wearing a Muslim headcovering in the Paris suburbs of Argenteuil, Trappes and Reims. The wave of attacks occurring in the Parisianbanlieus is probably attributable to rightwing extremist skinheads, although police have so far been unable to apprehend any perpetrators.

But in the meantime, cases are being observed of acts of violence committed against Muslim women by people with no rightwing extremist background. Last July, the trial began in Orléans of a motorist who attacked three Muslim women following a traffic dispute. The man was accused of hurling racist taunts at the three women – a woman from the Maghreb region, her 15-year-old daughter and her sister – and pulling them out of their car. He was eventually sentenced to two months in prison.

At the annual national rally against violence against women, held on 24 November, for the first time Muslim women wearing headscarves formed their own bloc. They said they were taking a stand against domestic violence perpetrated by men, as well as expressing their growing fear of being attacked in the public sphere.

Dashed hopes

Many believed that the waves of outrage connected to the public perception of Muslims had been primarily incited by campaigning in the run-up to the French parliamentary and presidential elections in early 2012. During the campaign, the rightwing extremist “Front National”, but also elements of the conservative camp, had voiced objections to the “increased presence of halal meat in school canteens”, sometimes openly portraying this as evidence of the fact that the nation was being overrun with foreigners. Many people believed that the public debate over Islam would die down after the elections. But they were very wrong.

But assertions that the racism prevalent in French society is first and foremost taking on “culturalising” forms and being mainly directed at symbols and expressions of the Islamic faith have not been borne out. This is because racism against Romany communities in France has increased, as well as racism against black politicians such as the French Minister of Justice, Christiane Taubira, who was repeatedly and publicly insulted by her political opponents who called her a “savage” and a “monkey”.

In the meantime, this increase in racist violence has triggered a counter movement: Large-scale protest events against racism and xenophobia are expected to be held in France at the end of this year. These are to mark the 30th anniversary of the spectacular “March for Equality and Against Racism”, when from October to December 1983, the sons and daughters of Maghreb immigrants marched on foot from Marseille via Lyon to Paris, to demonstrate for better rights and more foreigner-friendly policies.

 

Qantara.de – http://en.qantara.de/content/islamophobia-and-racism-in-france-shocking-indifference

Move over organic – the new big business in food is halal

The Haloodies, a growing group of food lovers who are bored of curries, fed up with kebabs, and long for nothing more exotic than a shepherd’s pie. Their increasing spending power has sparked a race among retailers, wholesalers and canny restaurateurs to carve out a chunk of a market that is worth about £420bn globally.

 

This week an estimated 20,000 Haloodies will congregate in east London at the Halal Food Festival, the world’s first gastronomic celebration of halal produce. All of the UK’s major supermarket chains are sending scouts to help them find ways to exploit the trend. Attendees can browse food stalls offering anything from hot dogs and sushi to French and Moroccan dishes without worrying how the meat was killed or even transported.

 

Imran Kausar, a doctor by training, who masterminded the festival, said British Muslims were no longer “economic migrants trying to make do [but] affluent and aspirational members of the middle class [who wanted to] expand their culinary horizon.” He added: “While typical British dishes have got more exotic, Muslims want the reverse. We want regular stuff like shepherd’s pie, which we see everywhere but we can’t try.”

 

Contrary to stereotypes, not all those planning to go will be Muslim by faith: there is a small but expanding group of people who opt for halal much as they might choose free-range or organic meat. Around 4 per cent of the UK’s population is Muslim, yet halal produce comprises more than 15 per cent of all meat sold in the UK, according to Saqib Mohammed, the chief executive of the Halal Food Authority, one of the two main organisations that regulate Britain’s halal food industry. “Some is exported but the rest is being consumed by non-Muslims,” he said, adding: “Educated non-Muslims are convinced that halal meat is more hygienic.”

 

Restaurant chains are changing their menus to use only halal chicken. Although halal is most often used in connection with meat, the word simply means “lawful” and refers to any object, not just food, or action or behaviour that is deemed permissible under Islamic law. For meat to be considered halal the animal must be alive and healthy before it is killed, crucially with a single cut across the jugular. All the blood must be drained from the body and the slaughterer must recite a special Islamic prayer as the animal is killed.

 

The point that arouses controversy is whether the animal has been stunned first: stunning livestock is compulsory throughout the EU but most member states, including the UK, grant exemptions to Muslims and Jews. That said, Food Standards Agency data published last year shows that 84 per cent of all cattle and calves slaughtered by the halal method in the UK in 2011 were stunned first.

Teaching union furious as Islamic free school staff are told they must wear hijab even if they are not Muslim

Teaching unions have reacted with anger after staff at an Islamic free school were told they had to wear the hijab even if they were not Muslim. It was also claimed that teachers were dismayed that girls at the Al-Madinah School in Derby are required to sit at the back of the class raising fears over possible discrimination. Staff were reportedly spotted removing their headscarves as they left the premises at lunch time and claim they have been instructed not to wear jewellery or bring non-halal food with them to work.

 

The school, which is currently under investigation by the Department for Education over alleged financial irregularities, caters for 200 students aged between four and 16.

 

There are worries over practices concerning the discrimination between male and female pupils in the school, with the girls being told to sit at the back of the class regardless of whether they can see the board properly.

 

When it was founded last year it was claimed that half of students would be non-Muslim at the fully-subscribed school. Al-Madinah describes itself as having a “strong Muslim ethos” which it said would “give the school its uniqueness integrated with shorter holidays and longer school days to maximise opportunities for pupil achievement and success.”

 

No one at the school responded to requests to comment on the claims.

 

Will Islamic Stand-Up Play in Peoria? ‘The Muslims are Coming!,’ a Docu-comedy

“Every single solitary Butterball turkey in the United States of America has been sacrificed to Allah,” a conservative commentator says of halal meat in the montage that opens “The Muslims Are Coming!” Directed by the comedians Negin Farsad and Dean Obeidallah, the documentary begins strongly with this collection of absurd hatemongering, cobbled from television clips. Unfortunately, the film peaks in those first few minutes.

The movie follows a group of Muslim-American comedians (who include Ms. Farsad and Mr. Obeidallah, documenting themselves) on a peace tour across the country to promote awareness. They travel in two cars to small towns and large cities to perform stand-up and also to stage goofy stunts — for instance, setting up an “Ask a Muslim” booth or holding a “Hug a Muslim” sign. Interspersed are interviews with the comedians and with better-known figures like Jon Stewart, David Cross and Rachel Maddow.

McDonald’s drops halal food from U.S. menu

DETROIT — There have been only two McDonald’s restaurants in the U.S. that have offered halal food. Both were in east Dearborn, Mich., which has a sizable population of Arab-American Muslims.

But after a contentious lawsuit that accused the restaurant chain of selling non-halal items advertised as halal, McDonald’s has yanked its Halal Chicken McNuggets and Halal McChicken sandwiches off the menu. The move brings to an end a unique product that made the two McDonald’s restaurants popular with Muslims.

“Those items have been discontinued as a result of our continued efforts to focus on our national core menu,” a spokesman for McDonald’s said Friday.

At one of the two restaurants, the Ford Road location, a sign in Arabic and English on its drive-through menu informs customers that halal items are no longer available. The decision to discontinue the products after a 12-year run drew a mixed reaction in Dearborn: Some were disappointed, while others said it was a good move because McDonald’s had problems before with selling halal food.

The removal of the halal items, which was done last month, comes after a lawsuit filed in 2011 alleging that the fast-food restaurant was selling non-halal chicken it claimed was halal. Halal is the Muslim equivalent of kosher, requiring that meat be prepared according to Islamic guidelines, such as reciting a prayer while the animal is cut. In some cases, employees at the Ford Road location were mistakenly giving non-halal products to customers who asked for halal ones.

Pork found in Halal lamb burgers supplied to Leicester schools

Halal lamb burgers have been withdrawn from a city’s schools after tests revealed a sample contained pork. The decision follows DNA tests on a batch of frozen burgers manufactured by Doncaster-based Paragon Quality Foods Limited in January, Leicester Council said today. Assistant city mayor Vi Dempster said: “I am appalled by this situation. It is disgraceful that none of us can have confidence in the food we eat.

All other Halal products used in the council’s kitchens – including 24 city schools – are supplied by another company, the council said and that 19 schools were supplied with the frozen burgers.

The council has written to 6,000 families whose children might have eaten the burgers.

 

Suleman Nagdi, from the Federation of Muslim Organisations (FMO), said: “The community will be extremely shocked and distressed to learn of the contamination that has taken place. The FMO is working closely with the local authority and calling on them to take legal action in respect of this contamination and would urge the local authority to instigate criminal proceedings against the company involved under the Food Safety Act.”

 

In a statement issued today, Paragon Quality Foods said it had “never knowingly bought or handled pork” and it was working with the relevant authorities. “Paragon Quality Foods Ltd is a pork-free site and has never knowingly bought or handled pork and has provided this information to the relevant enforcement authorities.

 

The decision to remove halal lamb burgers from Leicester schools comes after a number of high-profile meat scandals this year. In February, the Ministry of Justice said it was to suspend a firm supplying meat to prisons after tests found that it may have provided halal pies and pasties with traces of pork DNA. Then there was the horse meat scandal in January where investigations revealed beef products sold by retailers including lasagne, spaghetti Bolognese and frozen burgers supplied to several supermarkets including Tesco contained were contaminated with horse DNA.

Dutch Man Fined for Selling Horsemeat as `Halal Beef`

2 May 2013

A Dutch businessman under investigation in a Europe-wide probe into a horse-for-beef food scandal has been given a suspended sentence and fined 50,000 euros by a district court in Den Bosch for selling horsemeat as Islamic halal-slaughtered beef in France.

Jan Fasen, 63, bought horsemeat in Brazil and Mexico which was sold on paper as halal-slaughtered beef to French suppliers. Specific names of suppliers were not provided in the court brief. A broader investigation against Fasen and his company is still underway.

Tuscan Pecorino Becomes Certified Halal for Islam

The Tuscan DOP cheese called “Pecorino Toscano” (DOP is an EU label that indicates the importance of the location in manufacture of a food product) made with local milk and worked in Manciano is known certified halal. The certification was authorized by the Islamic Zayd Ibn Thabit.

The changes in the production of Pecorino Toscano DOP Halal do not affect the product but rather are changes in the work process, approach and knowledge of the procedures to align with Islam. These aspects include the use of non-alcoholic products for the equipment cleaning as well as making clear the ingredients on the product label. This certification illustrates a major change in the domestic market, in which there are more and more Muslims; and many Muslims are looking for products that keep with their religion.

Halal food for Brussels Transport canteens

06.03.2012

Le Soir

After a union led debate upon the introduction of halal food, the Brussels Intercommunal Transport Company’s (STIB) Diversity Committee has accelerated the process after gelatine which contains pork was found in three salads offered at STIB’s canteens. Many of the STIB employees are of Muslim faith and those who support the motion to diversify the food offered by STIB canteens do so by arguing for change in face of shifting demographic structures amongst STIB employees.

Who should regulate kosher and halal food?

Food and religion–A meaty question?

KEEPING the government’s nose out of anything with a religious whiff is one of America’s founding principles. With this in mind on January 31st a federal district judge in Minnesota dismissed a lawsuit contending that Hebrew National, a big American meat-products brand, fraudulently labelled its hot dogs “100% kosher”. Critics had claimed that the meat used did not meet kosher requirements. The judge, however, ruled that since kosher is a standard “intrinsically religious in nature”, under the first amendment it was none of the court’s business. Triangle K, the certifying body that gave the wieners the kosher seal of approval, and its Orthodox rabbis, would have to rebut the critics themselves. Unhappy customers could always shop elsewhere.

Few Western countries have laws explicitly regulating kosher or halal products—chiefly meat produced by the ritual slaughter of animals, subject to particular standards of health or hygiene. Governments prefer to rely on private companies and market forces to do the job.

America has been battling with this issue for decades. Of its 50 states, 22 have introduced kosher-fraud laws over the past century. Anxious about the industry’s rampant corruption (half of all “kosher” food was not), price-fixing and bitter rivalries (including drive-by shootings in poultry markets), New York started the trend in 1915 with a bill saying that food labelled fit for Jews must comply with “orthodox Hebrew religious requirements”. But in the past 20 years courts in Georgia, Maryland, New Jersey and New York have deemed such laws unconstitutional. New Jersey firms must merely produce documentary proof that their products are kosher.

Still, Jews are more united than Muslims about the exact nature of their religion’s dietary rules. Jewish law leaves no doubt that stunning animals before slaughter is prohibited. Muslims disagree about that. Hundreds of halal-certification bodies operate, with varying standards and logos. They differ in their methods of slaughter.

The importance of the halal label spreads well beyond food. Many of the world’s 1.6 billion Muslims want reassurances that medicines and make-up, for example, are free from animal products or alcohol. Websites are abuzz with the news of a halal nail varnish produced in Poland. Just don’t test it on animals.