In the last year in France, anti-Muslim hate crimes have tripled while anti-Semitism has also risen. Yet one kosher butcher shoppe in Paris aims to unite both faiths, at least on a culinary level. Located in the 19th arrondissement — known as the largest Jewish population of any western European neighborhood and also houses a sizeable Muslim population — Boucherie de l’Argonne kosher certification draws many a loyal Muslim customer.
“[Muslim patrons] biggest concerns are for the meat to be properly drained of the blood,” says Philippe Zribi, a Tunisian-born Jew whose family runs the shoppe. He says the custom is also observed by Halal butchers, and notes that most of his butchers are Muslims who , like himself, are from North Africa. “We work together. We have a lot more in common than with other foreigners.”
French sociologist Michel Wieviorka says that the November Paris attacks have led to a greater understanding among Jewish and Muslim communities. “The real violence doesn’t come from the communities as such, but by individuals who are not part of their communities,” he says. A prominent French rabbi, Michel Serfaty, says that a number of Muslim organizations have reached out to him, and wants to work together.
But back to the butcher shoppe. The Zribi family have installed a prayer room for their Muslim employees and during lunch breaks, conversations are sprinkled with Arabic from the butchers’ homelands. Mustafa Makhoukh, a Muslim butcher from Morocco, has been employed at the shoppe for 18 years, and comments: “We have good times and laugh. It’s like a family.” His colleague, Abdel Haq, also Muslim, agrees. “Working with Jews isn’t a problem. We lived with Jews in Morocco. When it comes to religion, each person has his own convictions.”