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France’s 1271 Year Battle With Islam

October 16, 2010

Hardly a week goes by without an article appearing in a newspaper telling of further conflict between a European nation and its Muslim population.  Population is the correct term, as issues are broad and deal with citizens, immigrants, and individuals there illegally.  This week, it is Frances turn.

Edward Cody, a staff writer for the Washington Post’s Foreign Service, penned an article covering the controversy in France dealing with mundane subject of hamburgers[1].  While, at first glance, it might appear humorous, the subject simply highlights how Christians and Muslims lack an understanding of each other, a problem we, here in the United State, share.  In the end, both camps must face the problem, and overcome it, if they intend to live together.

While most people understand the conflict between the two religions goes back centuries, they may not realize it started before the Crusades.  Over 350 years before the first Crusade, Muslims invaded Europe forcing European Christians to defend their homeland.  After securing the Iberian Peninsula, the Muslim leader Abd ar-Rahman I, set his sights on territory held by the Franks.

Europe, at the time, was a fragmented and had little chance of standing up against the organized invaders.  That is, until one man stepped back, formed a plan and convinced various groups to set aside their differences and work for the common goal of self-preservation.

With a nickname more akin to a Mickey Spillane character than the tony, aristocratic names of later French rulers, Charles “the hammer” Martel understood how to fight a battle.  Without question, from the standpoint of defense, he was the right man at the right time. Under his guidance, the Franks developed a standing army capable of not only defending themselves, but able to push the invaders back across the Pyrenees Mountains.  His efforts effectively ended the Muslim advance into Europe and lead to the formation of the Holy Roman Empire with his grandson Charlemagne.

Of course, then came the Crusades and all the carnage that came with them.  Given the history between European Christians and Muslims in general, is it any wonder there is mistrust today?  On the one hand, Muslims simply want to enjoy a hamburger that has been prepared in accordance with their religious tradition.  On the other hand, secularist and Christians see it as forcing them to accept the Muslim tenet of halal, as prescribed by Islamic law.  The businesses concerned do not care, they simply want to increases profits and market share.

Devout Muslims are only allowed to consume food prepared in the halal tradition, much like devout Jews restrict themselves to kosher foods[2].  Both traditions are similar but differ in the particular religious aspect and various restrictions.  In the case of halal, it is less restrictive on process but does require a set of particular prayers.  Still, it is a religious practice and many that do not follow the Islamic religion may take offence at some point.  In the end, businesses will decide if they need to adopt the practice based on profit and loss, nothing wrong with that.

The practice of halal only becomes an issue if the government forces or bans it.  In the end, the marketplace should determine the extent “halal only” restaurants and stores are accepted.  Muslims in France voted with their money, as sales in halal stores increased.  The French citizens in opposition are just getting started in applying pressure of their own.  They see this as another step in Muslims finally taking control of the territory the Muslim army failed to conquer all those years ago.

That is the point; it is not halal, as an isolated practice, which is at issue.  The issue is whether France is becoming an Islamic state.  By law, France does not officially use a census to determine its population demographics racially or ethnically.  As far back as 2004, various demographers estimated the Muslim population of France, under the age of twenty-five, as high as thirty percent[3].  As the Muslim population increases, it is natural for business to cater to the needs of that population.  The question in France, as well as other European countries, is what to do when that population grows large enough to demand a change in government.  In other words, the fear is France will become an Islamic state and lose its secular form of government.

In the end, France must find a way to deal with its growing Muslim population.  As citizens, they enjoy the same religious freedom as other citizens.  At least they enjoy the aspects of religious freedom that have not been legislated away, such as the ban on headscarves.[4] While something like how to create a hamburger highlights one of the many issues currently debated, that issue cannot be taken at face value.  As the little, seemingly insignificant issues grow in number, France, as other countries, will be forced to reconcile its secular government with a religion that includes its own unique political system that defines what constitutes a legitimate government[5].


[1] Cody, Edward. “Letter From France: Hamburger Chain’s Decision Sparks Tensions over Islam.” Washington Post – Politics, National, World & D.C. Area News and Headlines – Washingtonpost.com. 14 Oct. 2010. Web. 15 Oct. 2010. <http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2010/10/13/AR2010101305943.html >.

[2] “Kosher vs Halal.” Ultimate Guide to the World of Halal Food. Web. 16 Oct. 2010. <http://www.ehalal.org/kosher.html>.

[3] Amiel, Barbara. “Is France on the Way to Becoming an Islamic State? – Telegraph.” Telegraph.co.uk – Telegraph Online, Daily Telegraph and Sunday Telegraph – Telegraph. 26 Jan. 2004. Web. 16 Oct. 2010. <http://www.telegraph.co.uk/comment/personal-view/3601901/Is-France-on-the-way-to-becoming-an-Islamic-state.html>.

[4] Pg 13, United States. The Law Library of Congress. WORLD LAW BULLETIN. Ed. Constance A. Johnson and Wendy Zeldin. W.L.B. ed. Vol. 4. 2004. Print. Ser. 2004.

[5] Abul Ala Maududi. “Political System.” Web. 16 Oct. 2010. <http://www.islam101.com/politics/politicalsystem.htm>.

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2 comments

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  2. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Nick Gallicchio, ChipDaddy. ChipDaddy said: France's 1271 Year Battle With Islam « MHBenton's Blog: Devout Muslims are only allowed to consume food prepared i… http://bit.ly/a91UVm […]



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