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Thursday, 1 March, 2001, 19:21 GMT
Outbreak threatens Muslim holiday
Holy Grand Mosque, Mecca
Eid al-Adha marks the end of the pilgrimage to Mecca
French Muslims are concerned that the country's reaction to foot-and-mouth disease will complicate their efforts to celebrate a major religious holiday next week.

Eid al-Adha, the festival that marks the end of the pilgrimage to Mecca, is traditionally celebrated by sacrificing a sheep.

But in an effort to keep the country free of the highly infectious animal disease, the French authorities have set out to slaughter thousands of sheep.

French gendarme watches sheep carcasses
The French might ban sacrifices during the outbreak
And to the concern of France's four million Muslims, the country is considering banning the sacrifice of sheep.

"If the government imposes such a ban, I don't know how the Muslim community will take it," a Paris Mosque official told the AFP news agency.

Eid al-Adha, the Feast of Sacrifice, is celebrated on 5 and 6 March this year. It is among the holiest days in the Islamic calendar.

Sales down

Butcher shops catering to the Muslim community in France have been hard hit by the country's precautionary measures.

French Agriculture Minister Jean Glavany
The French agriculture minister wants 50,000 sheep destroyed
One Paris shop that normally sells about 100 sheep during Eid al-Adha reports having lost up to 80% of its business.

British Muslims are not as concerned as their French counterparts, the head of the Islamic Human Rights Commission told BBC News Online.

"For many years, British Muslims have been making arrangements to do these sacrifices in needy communities overseas," Massoud Shadjareh said.

They make a donation and have a sheep sacrificed on their behalf in a foreign country.

As favoured areas - including the Middle East and Chechnya - are not affected by the UK outbreak of foot-and-mouth disease, there is not a great worry in the Muslim community, Mr Shadjareh said.

Foot-and-mouth disease is a highly contagious disease that affects animals including sheep, cows, goats and pigs.

Though it can be fatal to animals, it is essentially harmless to humans.

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See also:

16 Mar 00 | Middle East
In Pictures: Feast of the Sacrifice
28 Feb 01 | Europe
France steps up sheep cull
27 Feb 01 | Europe
France announces mass slaughter
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