Don't use us as scapegoats in halal meat row, say France's Muslims
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The debate in France over halal meat, which has become a major issue of the presidential election campaign, once again reared its head on Tuesday when the president of theFrench Council of the Muslim Faith, Mohammed Moussaoui, condemned the use of Muslims as ‘scapegoats’ in the row.
The statement comes a day after Prime Minister François Fillon called on Muslims and Jews to consider scrapping their “outdated" halal and kosher slaughter rules.
Richard Pasquier, head of the CRIF umbrella group of French Jewish Organisations said he was “shocked” by Fillon’s “stupefying declaration”.
Marine Le Pen, the leader of the far-right National Front party, launched the halal debate last month when she claimed that all meat from abattoirs in the Paris region was prepared using Islamic halal traditions.
It later emerged that these abattoirs mostly supplied local Muslim butchers and that most meat sold in Paris came from outside the region.
France is home to western Europe's largest Jewish community, estimated at up to 700,000, and its largest Muslim minority, officially estimated at four million.
President Nicolas Sarkozy's government has come under fire from Muslim groups for a series of measures implemented during his five-year rule that authorities say are aimed at protecting France's secular tradition.
These include a ban on wearing full-face veils such as the Islamic niqab and the burqa.
France will vote in the first round of a presidential election on 22 April, followed by a second-round run-off on 6 May.
The Socialist candidate François Hollande is well ahead of Sarkozy in the polls.