Paris Mosque Slams Burger Chain’s Muslim Outreach

Angela Doland, Google News, September 3, 2010

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As of this week, 22 outlets of popular French fast food chain Quick are serving burgers it says respect Islamic dietary law. And while many Muslims are delighted, the powerful main Paris Mosque complained Thursday that Quick’s criteria aren’t all-encompassing enough, and that the operation is meaningless.

Quick’s meat is certified as halal, but Cheikh Al Sid Cheikh, assistant to the rector of the Paris Mosque, said the burger chain should have had the other ingredients checked as well, from its mustard to buns to fries.

“The rest must be validated too, or else there’s no point,” he told The Associated Press. Quick responded that it has no intention of making any of its restaurants halal through-and-through–beer is still served there, for example, said spokeswoman Valerie Raynal.

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Quick, the No. 2 burger chain in France after McDonald’s, is the latest group to enter the expanding French market for halal food, which has an estimated euro5.5 billion ($7 billion) in annual sales, according to a study by France’s Solis marketing agency.

{snip} The Paris Mosque has high praise for Kentucky Fried Chicken France, which it says spent four months consulting with Muslim officials recently about its fare. The chain is a rarity in that it has offered halal food for years–though it never trumpeted the fact.

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Beyond the political chatter, the Paris Mosque’s reaction highlights disagreement among France’s Muslims about what foods are really halal, who is qualified to decide, and whether the certification agencies are rigorous enough in making sure that animals are slaughtered properly.

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Fateh Kimouche, founder of the French Muslim consumer Web site Al-Kanz, says most of the 40 to 50 outlets in France that provide halal certification aren’t rigorous enough and don’t have their own inspectors to verify that Islamic law is being respected.

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A popular fast-food brand said Tuesday it would extend the number of halal only restaurants in its chain in France, after a controversial pilot project in February proved a success.

Some politicians reacted angrily to Quick’s announcement earlier this year of its first halal-only branches, saying the chain had deprived non-Muslims of a right to standard burgers and promoted social divisions.

But the Belgian chain said Tuesday it would switch 14 more of its French branches to serve only halal meat, certified as slaughtered in accordance with Islamic practices, bringing the total in France to 22 of its restaurants.

“In view of the results of the experiment in February, we have decided to keep the halal service in the eight test restaurants and to extend it . . . from September 1,” said Quick chief executive Jacques-Edouard Charret.

Home to Europe’s biggest Muslim minority, estimated at between five and six million, France has seen a series of controversies highlighting tension between the integration of Muslims and the demands of an officially secular state.

The red Quick sign is a common sight in France, as are the golden arches of the US burger chain McDonalds, and both outlets are popular in urban districts with populations of largely immigrant descent.

Charret told a news conference that 10 of the new halal restaurants are in the greater Paris region, including several underprivileged suburbs in the department of Seine-Saint-Denis, north and east of the capital proper.

Halal restaurants will now account for six percent of Quick’s branches in mainland France.

The company said that for customers who wished to avoid halal meat, it would offer a non-halal burger that will be prepared elsewhere and heated up on-site.

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