A French halal food shop has been forced to close down for not selling pork and alcoholic beverages.
The Good Price mini-market in the town of Colombes is owned by a public rent control organization (called an HLM office) run by the city of Colombes and its mayor, Nicole Gueta. It was rented by a shopkeeper who stocked it with almost exclusively halal products, prompting a lawsuit.
“This is a case that may seem unique but is still quite simple,” the lawyer for the HLM office François Meyer told Breitbart. “Colombes gave a lease to the company Good Price and, in the clauses of the lease, is inserted a mention for this business to be a general shop.”
According to them, a general food shop includes selling alcohol and pork products. Lawyers for the Good Price mini-market argued that alcohol “is not part of the general diet. It is called compliment, so there are no obligations.”
The court agreed with the city of Colombes. Good Price has been ordered to shut down and to pay 4,000 euros for legal fees.
The case is highlights several complex aspects in the debate over integration and Islamism. The first is the legal aspect, the second is societal and the third is interpersonal.
In legal terms, a lease is a contract between two people or entities and can be subject to whatever restrictions are agreed upon by the parties involved. This is one of the basic principles of the free market. This does not mean one can legally discriminate. It is illegal, for example, to refuse to rent an apartment to someone because of their race. It is also reasonable for someone who is leasing premises for a shop to be able to decide for themselves what they want to sell. However, if a leasing agent, particularly a local authority with a vested interest in ensuring that certain kinds of shops are available to the public, wishes to only rent out to certain kinds of space, it remains their prerogative to deal with their property as they see fit.
Societal context varies from place to place. In France, secularism is promoted as a state doctrine (called laicite), which sidelines religion in the public sphere. There are a large number of people in France who are worried about the growing proportion of Muslims in the country and who wish to preserve what they see as French culture in the face of requests to insert religion into the public sphere.
Seen in this context, shutting the halal mini-market doesn’t look like a legal dispute aimed at ensuring the citizens of Colombes have adequate access to pork and alcohol (it seems unlikely there are no other nearby shops that sell those things). It looks like an attempt to shut down a shop owned by the state because it openly caters to Muslims.
The interpersonal angle is the trickiest, but also perhaps the most important. Calling in lawyers (and cops, if necessary for the eviction) is always an overtly aggressive step.
We don’t know the background of this case and if any efforts were made to work out a compromise. Perhaps a specific section of the shop containing pork and alcohol could have been opened and run by a non-Muslim staff member.
The fact that Colombes is a town just outside Paris with a population upwards of 85,000 means that there must be plenty of shops that do sell pork and alcohol in the area. Perhaps government officials should be happy that there is one more business establishment open and employing citizens in the city.
As the world becomes increasingly globalized, these problems are not going to go away. We need to assess them at the different levels they operate at to be effective in solving them. Otherwise, divisions between religious and cultural groups will only grow.