Muslims versus Mayor in French store battle

The new owners of a supermarket in a predominantly Muslim suburb of Paris say they are being harassed by the city authorities because they refuse to sell alcohol or pork.

The owners of the store - which is affiliated to Franprix, a leading French chain - say they have to cater for their Muslim clientele.

Mohamed and Abdel Djaiziri, who bought the store in October, insist their decision was dictated by business, rather than religious considerations.

"We have studied our market," Mohamed Djaiziri told BBC News Online. "There are only Muslims in the neighbourhood."

He insists he is being picked on by the city authorities.

"They send health inspectors several times a week. We can no longer work," he said.

Going bad

Mr Djaiziri says that last week, when his refrigerated window display broke down overnight, health inspectors were on the premises the next morning - a prompt intervention he finds suspicious.

"Either they were tapping my phone or they acted on a tip-off," Mr Djaiziri says.

But his troubles did not end there.

"I had to throw away 500 kilogrammes of food," Mr Djaiziri goes on. "But when the rubbish collectors came they took a pallet of goods that had just been delivered - not the food to be thrown away."

Last month the Djaiziri brothers received a letter from Evry Mayor Manuel Valls protesting about the unavailability of alcohol and pork in the store.

"This situation is intolerable," Mr Valls wrote, adding that the needs of many local consumers were being ignored.

The mayor warned that if "normal operations" were not promptly restored, he would use "all police means" at his disposal.

Mr Valls denies that he is being anti-Muslim.

"I am very attached to the cultural and religious diversity of my town," he recently told Le Monde newspaper.

But the mayor warned that he would not back down.

"Local people are behind me," he said. "If they [the Dzaijiris] do not obey, I will continue my campaign."

Unfair dismissal?

Meanwhile, the two brothers are also being threatened with legal action by former employees of the store, who were made redundant by the old management.

They claim they were sacked ahead of the sale for religious reasons - so that the prospective buyers could then hire an all-Muslim staff.

This is strongly denied by Mohamed Djaiziri.

He says he wanted to hire people under a new government scheme involving lower employers' charges.

"It had nothing to do with religion," Mr Djaiziri says - pointing out that his new team includes a non-Muslim.