Right Wing Pork Soup France Battling Bigot Broth for the Homeless

Right wing groups in France have for weeks been handing out pork soup to the hungry. But dietary concerns mean that Muslims and Jews are excluded. Which is exactly the point.

Pork soup is creating an uproar in France.

Pork soup is creating an uproar in France.

Soup doesn't usually figure to be terribly high on the police list of peace-disturbing priorities. And one might think that charitable groups handing out hot soup to homeless people on a frigid winter's day in Paris would engender a pat on the back rather than opprobrium. But the soup in question is made of pig parts, and Paris police don't approve.

For weeks now, groups associated with the far-right organization Bloc Identitaire have been handing out soup -- which they are calling "identity soup" -- to the homeless across the country and in neighboring Belgium. But rather than altruistic charity, critics see blatant racism. Muslims and Jews are forbidden by their religions from eating pork -- and excluding these groups, say many, is exactly the point of the handouts.

"Schemes with racial subtexts must be denounced," said Strasbourg's Mayor Fabienne Keller whose city banned the soup distributions earlier this month.

Police in Paris are now likewise taking action. While handing out soup containing pork is not illegal, authorities have recently stopped the handouts at both Montparnasse and Gare de l'Est train stations on the grounds that the group had no permit. Elsewhere, for lack of legal violations, the pork soup philanthropy continues.

Those offering up the swine swill -- who say they are not connected to the far-right National Front party -- deny that their charity is in any way racist or discriminatory. Pork soup, they say, is firmly rooted in traditional French cuisine and that they wouldn't refuse service to hungry Muslims or Jews.

"With pork in the soup, we return to our origins, our identity," Roger Bonnivard, head of homeless-support group Solidarity of the French and pork soup chef, told the Associated Press. "On every farm, you kill a pig and make a soup.... The pig is the food of our ancestors."

Others, however, have made it clear that there is a message behind the charity. "It's not that we don't like the Muslims," Bloc Identitaire leader Frabrice Robert told the AP. "It's a problem of critical mass. Just 1,000 Muslims in France poses no problem, but 6 million poses a big problem." France's Muslim population is officially estimated at 5 million.

"Identity soup" is on its third winter in Paris, though this is the first year it has spread elsewhere. A number of local groups behind the liquid largesse are planning a so-called "great festive meal of European solidarity" in Paris in February. The goal is to defend the European identity.

French anti-racism groups, however, are concerned that the far right is attempting to drum up support ahead of the 2007 presidential elections.

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