PARIS — French organizers of a so-called "pork sausage and booze" party in Paris - designed as a deliberate provocation against Muslims - will move it from a heavily Muslim neighborhood to the Arc de Triomphe on Friday.
The group, "Identity Block," called the new venue "Plan B," after Paris police banned their bash this week on grounds of maintaining public order.
Advertised on Facebook and receiving some 7,000 RSVPs, the party is billed as a "resistance to the Islamization of France." It was initially planned to take place next to a mosque in the 18th district after Friday prayers, and on the same day as the English-Algerian World Cup soccer match.
The date holds meaning for the French: On June 18, 1940, Charles DeGaulle issued his famous call for the French to resist Nazi occupation in World War II.
"Identity Block" is an assortment of mostly French right-wing groups.
Today, the group sent out a press release, calling upon "all Parisians ... and French" to meet at the Arc de Triomphe Friday to eat ham and drink grape juice, fly French flags, protest the police ban, and listen to speeches against "religious control of public space" in France - a reference to the majority Arab-Muslim Goutte d'Or neighborhood where the sausage and wine party was to be held.
Fadela Amara, a French federal minister of Algerian origin, calls the implicit protest against Muslims "hateful, racist, and xenophobic."
WHY THE ARC DE TRIOMPHE?
The idea to gather at the Arc de Triomphe is described by Identity Block as symbolic, since it was where 2,000 schoolboys defied a Nazi ban on protest and marched against the occupying forces some 70 years ago.
The plan to hold a pork-and-wine bash in Goutte d'Or, where the overcrowded mosque spills into the streets on Fridays, was considered provocative enough to cause a riot. Islam forbids the consumption of pork and alcoholic beverages.
But it is also the latest and most public example of France's current identity and culture wars aimed mainly at Muslims. In the past year, a controversial "national identity" debate run by the ruling party has gone along with a nearly completed federal ban in public places of the full-length veil or burqa worn by Muslim women. France is home to Europe's largest Muslim population, some 4 million, most of whom are of North African origin.
FACEBOOK FLASH MOB
The pork bash and protest is also seen as an example of Facebook's power to quickly mobilize large crowds. The right-wing pork party is a further morphing here of a new fad called "apero geant" - huge binge-drinking parties organized overnight on Facebook. Apero is short for aperitif, and geant means giant.
French authorities have lately reined in apero geant after a man fell off a bridge and was killed; an apero geant aiming at 10,000 drinkers beneath the Eiffel Tower two weeks ago was also banned.
Some conservative media have played the pork party ban as an abridgment of free speech.
Marine Le Pen, deputy leader of the right-wing National Front (FN) party, calls the ban a "capitulation" by authorities to Muslims.
The conservative American Thinker website ran a blog notice titled "Creeping Sharia," suggesting that concern by Paris city hall of a riot or casualties is a bending to Islamic law.
That is hardly the main reading in France.
A more authentic comparison might be a neo-Nazi group holding a pork barbecue in front of a synagogue in a Hasidic Brooklyn neighborhood on Passover, then, when the city bans the event, calling the response "Creeping Torah."
French Protestant clergy are opposing the anti-Muslim party, including Friday's "festival" at Arc de Triomphe - calling it "explicitly racial and religiously motivated." Pastors have written letters comparing derogatory images of Muslims in the Facebook invitation to ugly images of Jews broadcast during the Vichy regime under the Nazis.
Pastor James Woody of the Paris church Oratoire du Louvre said of the event that, "a rally specifically aimed at fellow citizens of France who are Muslim, using the French flag - that is not the way to do something in brotherhood."
Websites associated with the party claim Goutte d'Or has become so Islamized that pork is no longer sold there. But French media in recent days have published photos of piles of pork sausages and ham legs in the windows of shops in the Paris neighborhood.