Monday, November 28, 2022

Jews and Muslims in France worried about campaign promises to end religious animal slaughter

PARIS ( Associated Press) – Sarah Gutmann has a bad feeling while she cooks lunch and talks politics – French President Marine Le Pen invades the privacy of her home and talks about her Judaism and chicken and kosher Interfered with plates of sausages. She is frying for her husband and their eldest son.

That’s because the far-right candidate wants to stop the ritual slaughter if she is elected next Sunday. And it can directly affect how Gutman feeds her family and exercises her religious freedom. She and her husband, Benjamin, say they would have to think about leaving France if a far-right government interfered with the kosher diet of observant Jews. Their fear is that under Le Pen, targeting religiously slaughtered meat could be the beginning of moves to make French Jews and Muslims feel unwanted.

“Invading the way we eat invades our privacy and is very serious,” Gutmann said as she was busy in the kitchen of her Paris home.

“The intention is to target minority populations who harass it and send a message to voters who are against these minorities: ‘Vote for me, because I will attack them and perhaps, over time, leave them.

Muslim shopkeeper Hayat Ettabet said his family could be forced to illegally slaughter at home to stay within their religious rules, leaving the animals “in the bathroom, bleeding back the same way.”

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Le Pen says that all animals should be stunned before slaughter, and frames the issue as animal welfare. This is unacceptable to observant Jews and Muslims who believe that the surprise causes unnecessary animal suffering and that their ritual slaughter for kosher and halal meat is more humane.

With the largest populations of Muslims and Jews in Western Europe, the issue has major potential repercussions for France and could affect the communities that buy French meat exports. The issue is one of several fault lines between Le Pen and incumbent President Emmanuel Macron and France’s differing approaches to next Sunday’s electoral runoff vote. It is expected to be far closer than in 2017, when centrist Macron defeated Le Pen by a landslide.

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“We have never been so close to an extreme-right regime,” Gutmann said. “The alarm bell is ringing.”

Le Pen’s France would be more internally focused, with far fewer immigrants and less rights for those already there, less tolerance for non-Christian traditions, and less tightly bound to the European Union and the outside world.

Macron is promising largely the opposite as he seeks another five-year term. Macron heeded Le Pen’s proposals to end the slaughter without surprise to emphasize their political differences. He said he “does not want a France that prevents Muslims or Jews from eating according to their religion.”

Le Pen says she doesn’t want that either. But it is difficult for worried Jews and Muslims to believe him. Le Pen does not oppose other practices deemed cruel by animal welfare campaigners, such as bullfighting or – in particular – hunting, a tradition deeply anchored in rural France where she is vying for votes. So his focus on kosher and halal meats smacks of hypocrisy to Jews and Muslims who see the attack disguised as animal welfare.

Le Pen says the meat could be imported instead. But even this doesn’t matter to critics, as it seems to contradict Le Pen’s general France-first rule that the country should produce more things and import less.

His camp has also turned. Jordan Bardela, No. 2 of Le Pen, who is leading his national rallying party seeking the presidency, said in March that he wanted an outright ban on kosher and halal meats, both imported and domestically slaughtered. made from animals.

Jewish leaders responded in a statement that the “disgusting” proposal would force large numbers of Jews and Muslims to leave.

But both Le Pen and Macron are now revising their positions on issues important to voters who did not support them in the first round of the election, securing the votes they would need to win in the second round. Macron, in particular, has softened his plan to raise the retirement age to 65. Le Pen is trying to appear more inclusive.

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“I’m not going to get rid of halal and kosher butcher shops at all,” she said this week. He said the meat of animals that have been knocked down by lightning may prove to be an acceptable halal alternative to some Muslims. But if not, “importing this meat would be authorized, obviously.”

Le Pen said, “What we want is to really stop the suffering of this animal, so intense, it results in amazing unintentional slaughter.”

Slovenia, Denmark and Sweden, as well as non-EU members Switzerland, Iceland and Norway, have abolished religious exemptions, meaning that kosher and halal meat must be imported. So, so are the Flanders and Wallonia regions of Belgium. The sanctions are being challenged at the European Court of Human Rights by Johann Benizari, the vice president of the European Jewish Congress.

He says that outlawing religious slaughter makes Jews feel “we are not part of European culture” and “portray us as barbarians of some sort.”

Because France exports kosher meat, banning its production would have a “disastrous effect” on Jewish communities, he said.

“It’s also going to be a disastrous sign because – again – we will not be considered welcome in the EU,” Benizzari said.

As her son finished lunch, Sarah Gutmann said that the most worrying aspect of the law pushed by Le Pen on the issue would be that it is met with general indifference.

“Then, actually, I would be very, very scared,” she said. “If I see an unjust law and no one reacts, we will tell ourselves that we are really in danger.”

Associated Press journalist Nicolas Garriga in Paris and Alain Gunley in Vernon, France contributed.

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