Monday, September 6, 2010

Burgers: weapons of division?

The BBC ran a provocative story over the weekend about how Quick, the number two burger chain in France behind McDonalds, is serving halal burgers to cater to the country's growing Muslim population. The chain announced this week that its 22 restaurants will serve halal meat only which, according to the BBC, is prompting concerns about segregation.

"What we want to avoid in France is any attempt to impose the customs of any particular community," one observer told the Beeb. "It's dangerous to have separate restaurants where you eat halal, kosher or pork. They should offer a choice for everyone, because this kind of separation between communities sets people against each other."

Halal essentially revolves around how the animal is slaughtered; according to the rules, its neck must be cut to minimize the pain the animal feels and its blood must be drained out. As the story notes, there are significant concerns that people who are selling halal meat in France may be cutting some corners on this practice, particularly the bigger food companies.

The segregation aspect is more interesting though, given the fears around rising Muslim populations in France especially, but Europe in general. As a recent Telegraph story pointed out, some Europeans are worried about the fabric of European culture being transformed, while others are concerned that xenophobic and extremist political parties could arise as a result of the increasing number of immigrants.

The issue of food is key whenever you talk about cultural conflict, since it's the one thing we all can't do without, but I'm not sure I agree with the BBC's take on the situation. So-called "segregated" restaurants exist everywhere - they are, in fact, one of the best things about living in Toronto; we have halal restaurants, koshers restaurants, vegan restaurants, etc. It seems somewhat foolish to want restaurants to cater to everyone. Perhaps it's an overly Canadian view, but I have to believe that more diversity makes people more accepting of others.

And besides, as some Muslims pointed out in the story, France has had kosher-only restaurants for ages without any sort of controversy.


Tom Megginson said...

I would much rather eat a fast food burger that was Halal, simply because it means more carefully-butchered and -processed meat. I feel the same way about "organic", "local" and, of course, my neighbourhood butcher. Anything to get away from the factory farms and mass production line.

Justin Mohareb said...

Man, what a non-troversy. Why the hell would anyone give a shit if a burger was halal? Well, unless they were a racist dbag.

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