Human Rights Watch criticizes France’s counterterrorism bill

Counter-terrorism legislation proposed by the French government will “normalize abusive practices,” undermine personal freedoms, and may fuel prejudice against the Muslim minority, Human Rights Watch (HRW) said on Tuesday.

A bill presented last week would enshrine curbs on fundamental rights in law if approved by parliament, the rights group said.

Newly-elected President Emmanuel Macron wants the legislation to replace temporary emergency powers in place since Islamist militants attacked Paris in 2015.

 “Instead of truly ending France’s 19-month temporary state of emergency, the government is making some of its far-reaching powers permanent, but with little effective court oversight,” HRW’s Kartik Raj said.

“France needs to find a way to end its state of emergency without normalizing abusive practices.”

France, home to Europe’s largest Muslim minority, has grappled with a response to homegrown jihadists and foreign militants following attacks that have killed more than 230 people since early 2015.

The draft bill envisages extending police powers to stop and search people or conduct house searches. The law would also give officials more discretion in deciding when to invoke a risk of terrorism as justification for curbs on freedoms.

Mr. Macron has assured the European Court of Human Rights the legislation would respect public freedoms.

“As the text stands, it [the law] could, for instance, be used arbitrarily to prohibit any meeting at which ideas or theological concepts associated with conservative interpretations of Islam, such as Salafism, are expressed regardless of whether there is any demonstrable connection to criminal activity,” HRW said.

“Poorly worded laws that are likely to lead to closing solely Muslim places of worship may also help feed anti-Muslim rhetoric and prejudice prevalent in wider society,” it said.

Several mosques have been shut temporarily under the state of emergency, imposed after Islamist gunmen and suicide bombers killed 130 people in a concert hall and restaurants and bars in Paris in November 2015.

Muslims in a Bible Belt town hold their breath

Murfreesboro is one of the fastest-growing cities in the country and an increasingly diverse one. Muslim and Christian students go to school and play sports together; their families patronize the same restaurants and stores.

Residents variously describe the town as a proud example of Southern hospitality, a growing “melting pot,” a suburb of “little blue dot” Nashville and the “buckle on the Bible Belt.” Its downtown with the old courthouse and Confederate-soldiers memorial yields to strip malls and chain stores, new housing developments and old cotton fields, and the university, with its 20,000 undergraduates.

Among the town’s couple hundred places of worship are 59 Baptist churches, including an Arabic Baptist church as well as Grace Baptist, whose deacon in 2010 greeted the construction of the new mosque next door by erecting 23 huge white crosses on the road.

Murfreesboro doesn’t need “to have a lot of Muslims,” Sally Wall said. “I think they can stay where they are and we stay where we are.”

But there’s more tolerance because of the public acrimony over the mosque, said City Council member Bill Shacklett.

“I wish some of the things hadn’t happened. But the one thing it has done is compel people to open their hearts and minds to be drawn toward each other . . . get out and flesh out your faith with different people,” Shacklett said, adding that Muslims and Christians have started to do that.

 

 

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.

French Far Right group positions against Muslims

News Agencies – December 10, 2011

The extreme right Bloc Identitaire, or Identity Bloc, has lashed out at Islam while dining on pork roast and local wine — off limits to practicing Muslims. The group, an emerging force on France’s far-right scene, likens Muslim immigrants to invaders threatening the identity of the French heartland and menacing European civilization. The movement — with a wild pig as its logo — is gaining traction through its blend of Islam-bashing and romanticizing of French rural culture.

Increasingly, it is being used as an “idea box” for the National Front, a well-established far-right party and force in European politics that could play a crucial role in French presidential elections five months away. The Bloc’s campaign against mosque building and its wine-and-pork strategies are also finding a more mainstream audience in the country.

Bloc Identitaire militants ferret out plans by Muslim communities to build mosques and campaign to stop them. An “identity guerrilla” pamphlet spells out how to raise awareness of Muslim initiatives, from mosques to halal food restaurants, and infiltrate culture or sports clubs popular with Muslims.

Burqa ban in France to take effect from April 11 2011

News Agencies – March 3, 2011

Women will face prison for hiding their faces under the cloak – as will men who force their wives to wear one. The law, which will take effect from April 11, brands the garment ‘an insult to the country’s values’. It will make France the second country in Europe after Belgium to outlaw Muslim headwear that hides the face. President Nicolas Sarkozy has described the burqa as a ‘sign of debasement’.

The law was voted through last October after a year of heated national debate – and despite threats from al-Qaeda leaders to seek ‘dreadful revenge’ if it is enforced. The ban applies to all public spaces including streets, shops, restaurants, cinemas, theatres, sports stadiums and behind the wheel of a car on a public road.

Under the new rules, men can be fined up to £25,000 and jailed for a year for forcing their wives to wear a burka or a niqab (full face veil). Women will face a smaller fine of around £130 because they are ‘often victims who are not given any choice’, the law states. Repeat offenders who refuse to pay their fines will be sent to prison.

Political Debate Continues Over French Fastfood Chain and Halal Meats

News Agencies – September 6, 2010
In order to lure Muslim populace, French fast food chain Quick has started serving halal-only foods in 22 of its outlets. Sitting at the second position in France following McDonald’s, Quick has 346 restaurants across the country. It revealed that its sales have twofolded at eight outlets, where they have started serving halal food.
It is now modifying its products so as to cater to the demands of the Muslim society. The burgers that were previously served with bacon, at the restaurant in Fleury-Merogis, outside Paris will now have smoked turkey in them.
The Company is being vigilant and is adhering to Quranic guidelines for the right usage of animal’s meat in their offerings. In fact, they have put a certificate on the wall to prove it. Meanwhile, the Company has received mixed response from the customers regarding this change. While some are happy about it, others particularly in the Alsace region believe that halal food is being imposed on them.

French Fastfood Chain Quick has new Halal Plan

Le Figaro – August 18, 2010

Beginning on the 1st of September, French fastfood chain Quick will add 14 additional restaurants to offer halal food options. Restaurants in Toulouse, Argenteuil and Garges-les-Gonesse (Val d’Oise), Buchelay (Yvelines), Villeurbanne (Rhône), Marseille (Bouches-du-Rhône) and Roubaix (Nord) already offer halal hamburgers and smoked turkey in the place of bacon.

Halal Haute Cuisine Growing in France

Traditional French dishes are becoming increasing available in halal versions in Paris. hat he could never taste because they were forbidden by Muslim precepts. The website paris-hallal.com, dedicated to promoting halal restaurants, lists 250 sit-down places serving only halal meat and no alcohol. As well as traditional Middle Eastern and North African cuisine, they include 26 French restaurants and dozens that serve Thai, Chinese, Italian and other international cuisines.

The rapid growth in halal restaurants in the Paris region is part of a trend that has swept France in the last few years, says Abbas Bendali, president of the market research firm Solis, which studies developments among minority populations. The typical customers are the grandchildren of Muslim immigrants who arrived in France in the 1950s to help rebuild the country after the Second World War. They tend to be cultural rather than religious Muslims and have embraced halal food as their “sign of identity.”

The market for halal products started to grow in the late 1990s, and has “exploded” in the last three years, Mr. Bendali said. His most recent study shows it is increasing by 20 per cent a year and will be worth an estimated €5.5-billion ($7.5 billion) this year.

The other side of Italy: Where the kebab frightens more than a sawan-off shotgun

A plethora of Mafia organizations are well rooted in the North of Italy, where they aim not only at laundering but also at controlling the territory, local institutions and tenders. When questioned about this Mafia “emergency,” all Northern League politician’s continuously circumvent the issue at hand and continue to focus on security ordinances against sellers of ethnic food.

Letizia Moratti, mayor of Milan, asked Roberto Maroni, the Italian interior minister, to issue a decree law to allow frisking migrants’ houses in order to find illegal immigrants. The decree against urban blight in action in Via Padova (the street in Milan where clashes between immigrants took place few weeks ago) mandates: kebab shops to close at 10 pm, massage centers to close at 8 pm, discos to close at 2 am, and for restaurants to close by midnight. Many view such a decree to reflect a curfew like environment that one would have experienced during periods of war.

These right wing politicians refuse to even acknowledge the presence of the Mafia in Northern Italy-as evidenced by the lack of mention on the topic in recent electoral campaigns. It has been proven that the murder rate increase, in the last 10 to 25 years, has been perpetuated by the mafia. Despite this, it would seem that the Mafia presence in North Italy is escaping the concerns of it politicians. Instead, “Padania,” the land of the Northern League, has unleashed an ideological war against a presumed “Islamic danger” while ignoring the role of the extremely powerful and dangerous Mafia clans, whose reach encroaches into public works and all big state projects.

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.