Quick, one of France’s most popular fast food chains, has taken pork off the menu at eight of its restaurants, turning them into halal-only outlets.
The chain has replaced bacon with smoked halal turkey in restaurants in three branches in a Paris suburb, two in Marseille, and the remainder in Toulouse, Villeurbanne, near Lyon, and Roubaix, northern France – all of them areas with high Muslim populations.
These restaurants now serve only halal food, seen as permissible according to Islamic law. The company said the move was part of a test, which began in November, and that pork may return to the menu at a later date.
However, it has sparked angry reactions from Catholic groups. A comment on E-Deo, a Catholic website, said: “Quick is in the process of inventing fast-islamisation”.
Citing its outlet in Villeurbanne, a Quick spokesman said that no customers were “obliged” to eat halal meat, as “in parallel, we have 10 Quick restaurants in the Lyon area” offering “classic menus”.
Some Muslim customers welcomed the move in one branch in Roubaix, northern France. “I’m happy, as I can come with my Muslim friends,” said Farid, 17.
But other regular customers were outraged. “I don’t understand, why can’t they sell halal burgers and bacon burgers at the same time?” asked Delphine, 26.
The far-right National Front waded in on Sunday; its vice-president, Marine Le Pen, who is campaigning ahead of next month’s regional elections, said: “All those who come to buy food in this Quick will in reality pay a tax to Islamic certification organisations [paid to rubber stamp the halal label].”
But Al-Kanz, a French Muslim consumers’ group, said the reasons were “purely economic”, adding that there were no “dark Muslim forces in France putting pressure” on the chain.
French Muslims have expressed concern that they are being stigmatized following a four-month long controversial “great debate” on national identity launched by the government, which centred heavily on immigration and the position of Islam in France. There has been an equally heated debate on whether to ban the full Islamic veil.
By Henry Samuel in Paris
Published: 6:11PM GMT 15 Feb 2010