French minister’s complaint on religious food aisles sparks criticism

French Interior Minister Gérald Darmanin faced ridicule and criticism on Wednesday for expressing shock at dedicated aisles in supermarkets for halal and kosher food.

Darmanin told BFM TV late on Tuesday that he has “always been shocked to walk into a supermarket and see that there was an aisle of such [religious] community food,” implying that the separate sale of these products can contribute to the isolation of minority communities and even lead to radicalization.

“I understand very well the halal butcher shops, … the kosher butcher shops. I do not criticize the consumers but those who sell them something. I understand very well that halal meat is sold in a supermarket, what I regret is the aisles … So you have the aisle for Muslims, the kosher aisle and then all the others … Why specific aisles ?” he said.

His remarks came as French authorities plan to clamp down on radical Islam following a teacher’s murder last week. Samuel Paty, who had shown caricatures of Prophet Muhammad in a class on free speech, was beheaded by an 18-year-old Chechen.

In the interview, Darmanin pointed the finger at companies that produce food and clothes aimed at religious minorities. He suggested firms are hindering the integration of minorities by doing so.

“I think that French capitalism and global capitalism have a responsibility,” he said, adding that “when you sell [religious] community clothes maybe you have a small responsibility” for what the government has termed “separatism.” He called on “business leaders to realize that they, too, can contribute to public peace and to the fact that separatism can be fought against.”

Richard Ferrand, president of the National Assembly and member of President Emmanuel Macron’s La République En Marche party, was among those criticizing Darmanin’s remarks.

“I’m not shocked, when I do my shopping I go to the Breton products section because I am Breton,” he said.

He also accused the interior minister of holding double standards. “In my district … there is a large company that exports 500,000 tons of chicken to Saudi Arabia and it’s halal chicken. So, I can see that when it allows entire industries to survive and businesses to prosper, and we consider that we are adapting to market demand, then [producing halal food] is not an issue,” Ferrand said.

French leftist MEP Manon Aubry mocked Darmanin on Twitter, writing that “the breeding ground for religious extremism would be … Carrefour’s halal ravioli.”

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