Paris — In a bitterly divisive presidential election campaign, France is once again torn by an uncomfortable struggle over the place of Muslims in a society pledged to secularism but deeply rooted in Christianity.
After a disputed law to ban full-face Muslim veils, the latest chapter in the long-running drama has flared over non-Muslims who might unknowingly eat halal meat, or meat from animals slaughtered according to Islamic tradition. As with the veil debate, the concern over slaughtering practices reflects a widely shared irritation against the growing number of Muslims who defy France’s traditional majority by insisting on their own customs and dress codes.
The confrontation between traditional Muslim ways and Europe’s Christian heritage has become more acute as the number of Muslims increases across the continent because of continuing immigration and the large families of Muslim immigrants.
The latest round of invective was sparked by a claim by Marine Le Pen, presidential candidate of the far-right National Front, that all the meat consumed by Parisians is halal and that millions of French people are consuming halal meat without knowing it.
A recent poll said halal meat was the No. 1 worry of the French people, President Nicolas Sarkozy told reporters.