PARIS — In a bitterly divisive presidential election campaign, France is once again torn by an uncomfortable struggle over the place of Muslims in a society pledged to secularism but deeply rooted in Christianity.
After a disputed law to ban full-face Muslim veils, the latest chapter in the long-running drama has flared over non-Muslims who might unknowingly eat halal meat, or meat from animals slaughtered according to Islamic tradition. As with the veil debate, the concern over slaughtering practices reflects a widely shared irritation against the growing number of Muslims who defy France’s traditional majority by insisting on their own customs and dress codes.
The confrontation between traditional Muslim ways and Europe’s Christian heritage has erupted in several European countries as the number of Muslims increases across the continent because of continuing immigration and the customary large families of Muslim immigrants.
But it is particularly raw in France. This is true in part because it has emerged as an issue in the election campaign. But it is also because, with Europe’s largest Muslim population, France has a number of urban and suburban areas where Muslims are a majority and find it easy to live according to their traditions without seeking to integrate into French society.