Sarkozy attempts to quell halal controversy at Paris mosque
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France’s President Nicolas Sarkozy headed to the Paris mosque on Wednesday, where he met with Muslims to smooth over tensions concerning the recent controversy over halal meat. Sarkozy said he hoped the community wasn’t hurt by the comments made by several French politicians, in the lead-up to the presidential elections.
He said that Muslims in France had every right to practice their religions as they saw fit, and said that comments made by his fellow politicians were “excessive” and should never have taken place.
The controversy began in February, when extreme right-wing presidential candidate Marine Le Pen said that all meat distributed in Paris supermarkets was halal, the Islamic ritual method of slaughter.
Interior Minister Claude Guéant, present at the mosque on Wednesday, created an uproar a few weeks later when he said that if foreigners were allowed the right to vote, halal meat would be required in school cantines.
Prime Minister François Fillon added fuel to the fire, saying that Muslims and Jews should give up the ancient practice of ritual slaughter because it “no longer amounted to much.”
Following Sarkozy’s mosque visit, several Muslim authorities said they felt positive and reassured by his words.
However, the president of the French Council of the Muslim Faith, Mohammed Moussaoui, said vigilance was still necessary.
“Statements intended to wound the Muslim community risk coming back in the future,” he said.
Sarkozy also inaugurated a memorial within the mosque dedicated to Muslim soldiers who have died for France.