Paris, 1 Dzulqa’dah 1436/15 August 2015 (MINA) – Frustrating millions of French Muslims, a court has upheld a local move to stop offering non-pork meals to students in school cafeterias, possibly setting a precedent for municipalities elsewhere in the country..
“I can only condemn this mayor’s decision, which is not taken to bring social peace to schools,” Abdallah Zekri, leader of the French Council of the Muslim Faith, said in a statement to the Agence France-Presse news agency. On Islam quoted by Mi’raj Islamic News Agency (MINA) as reporting.
“All Muslims respect secularity. Muslims have never asked for Halal meat in school cafeterias.”
The court ruled in favor of the mayor of a town in eastern France who announced in March that students would no longer be guaranteed a non-pork option at lunchtime for the coming school year.
A legal complaint was filed by the Muslim Judicial Defense League, whose lawyer, Karim Achoui, said “a child would be extremely traumatized if a pork cutlet was served to him and he was obliged to eat it after he has been repeatedly told from a young age that it’s forbidden food.”
The mayor was also supported by staunch secularists who praised his decision.
“A first victory for secularity,” tweeted the mayor, Gilles Platret of Chalon-sur-Saone, after the court ruling.
Meanwhile, the tradition has also tapped simmering anti-immigrant sentiments in France after the far-right National Front party vowed to enact similar bans against pork substitutes in the 11 towns that it controls.
“We will not accept any religious demands in school meals,” National Front leader Marine Le Pen said earlier this year.
“There is no reason for religion to enter the public sphere; that’s the law.”
On the other hand, Education Minister Najat Vallaud-Belkacem, who is Muslim, denounced the decision by the court in Dijon for “taking children hostage.”
France is home to a Muslim community of nearly six million, the largest in Europe.
French Muslims have been complaining of restrictions on performing their religious practices.
The concept of halal, meaning permissible in Arabic, has traditionally been applied to food.
Muslims should only eat meat from livestock slaughtered by a sharp knife from their necks, and the name of Allah, the Arabic word for God, must be mentioned.
In 2007, France’s highest administrative court has endorsed a police decision banning an organization with far-right links from offering only pork soup meal to the homeless as it meant to exclude poor Muslims and Jews who do not eat swine.
The pork soup, distributed by members of the far-right Bloc Identitaire, was regarded as discriminatory and a threat to public order. (T/P007/R03)
Mi’raj Islamic News Agency (MINA)