French fast food chain sparks halal burger debate

A French council has lodged a complaint against a fast food chain that serves only meat that conforms with Islamic dietary laws at a local branch. The mayor of Roubaix, in northern France, said the halal menu constituted “discrimination” against non-Muslims.

The Roubaix branch is one of several restaurants at which the chain, Quick, took non-halal products and pork off the menu in November. The move has triggered the latest controversy over France’s Muslim minority. Several deputies from French President Nicolas Sarkozy’s conservative UMP party have condemned the move, while Marine Le Pen, a vice-president of the far-right National Front, warned of “Islamisation”.

In Roubaix, Mayor Rene Vandierendonck, a socialist, called for a boycott of the Quick branch, and the town council has filed a complaint for discrimination with a regional court in Lille.

Quick decided to take a bacon hamburger off the menu at eight of its 350 branches, replacing it with a halal version that comes with smoked turkey. The Quick manager responsible for the Roubaix branch said there had been a slight increase in business after the introduction of halal menus and that he had not received complaints from customers.

Jean-François Cope suggests burqa ban in France

Lawmaker Jean-Francois Cope, head of President Sarkozy’s UMP party suggested he would submit a bill to have the veil banned not just from public buildings but also in the streets of France.

“We want a ban in public areas,” Cope said. However, the speaker of the lower chamber, Bernard Accoyer, said he felt his UMP party colleague’s plan risks “appearing premature” before the parliamentary panel issues its report.

Cope said after a meeting of Sarkozy’s Union for a Popular Movement that he planned to file two distinct texts in January, one of which would ensconce the ban in a larger bill forbidding people from covering their faces on security grounds. The other text would be a resolution regarding respect for women’s rights. A resolution approved by lawmakers does not carry the weight of law, but solemnly affirms a principle.

Cope suggested a fine could be levied against anyone breaking the ban. However, he also suggested a period of mediation lasting several months “with the women in question and their husbands … to explain” and discuss the issue.

No Breakthrough for Minority Candidates in French Vote

French parliamentary elections failed to provide the hoped-for boost in the number of black and Arab lawmakers, with voters returning just one minority candidate from the mainland. President Nicolas Sarkozy’s Union for a Popular Movement (UMP) party had 12 minority candidates running for election, mostly in the Paris region, and the opposition Socialists had 20 vying for seats. But the only one to win was George Pau-Langevin, a black lawyer from the French Caribbean island of Guadeloupe, who was elected to a seat in eastern Paris on a Socialist Party ticket. Fifteen other black deputies were elected to the 577-seat National Assembly, all in overseas territories where the majority of the population is black. Although France is home to Europe’s biggest Muslim community, with about five million people, mainly descendants of immigrants from north and sub-Saharan Africa, no candidates of African origin were elected. “We regret that the republic’s diversity will not be represented in the National Assembly, because political parties did not give it enough importance,” the French Council of Muslim Democrats said in a statement Monday.