Friday, February 19, 2010

The French Halal burger kerfuffle

From AP:
A French town filed a legal complaint Thursday accusing a branch of a mainstream fast food chain of discrimination because it only serves burgers prepared according to Islamic dietary law.

The mayor of the northern town of Roubaix, Rene Vandierendonck, told The Associated Press that he wants the Quick burger restaurant to "propose a new, diversified" menu that satisfies a broader clientele.

Quick is a Belgium-based chain popular in Europe that offers low-priced hamburgers, french fries and other standard fast-food fare. There are Quick restaurants in towns all over France.

The Quick restaurant in Roubaix is among seven in France that since November have been serving halal-only food. Burgers once served with bacon now come with smoked beef instead of pork.

The company has said the goal of the halal-only restaurants is "to validate the commercial interest and technical feasibility of introducing such a selection of products based on halal meat."

The Independent adds more context:
Quick, which is almost entirely owned by a French state investment arm, began its experiment in towns with large Muslim populations last November. Not a single customer, or politician, complained until the far- right politician, Marine Le Pen, claimed this week that the "halalburgers" amounted to an "Islamic tax" on French consumers.

The Socialist mayor of Roubaix, in northern France, and centre-right members of President Nicolas Sarkozy's party have since protested against Quick's decision as "un-Republican", "discriminatory" and "sectarian". There are regional elections in France next month.
There is absolutely nothing wrong with what Quick did, and the politicians that are against it are using arguments that have been used by anti-semites for decades.

Right across the channel, Subway offers Halal franchises, and there are both Halal and kosher Subways in the US. Walmart customizes its items for local communities, offering kosher sections in the Catskills and Halal sections in the US and Canada. This isn't discrimination; this is good business.

There are a lot of things to be concerned about from political Islam, but this is not one of them. Those who rail against it are on the slippery slope between justified concern and true bigotry.