French Muslims have expressed their outrage over the placement of two pigs’ heads outside a mosque in Montauban, near Toulouse.
This was the same town where an Islamist gunman named Mohammed Merah killed two paratroopers earlier this year (before murdering Jews outside a school in Toulouse).
The French Council of the Muslim Faith condemned the act of leaving pigs heads at the mosque as "a racist and xenophobic provocation" and urged police to find and punish the culprits. Muslims are particularly aggrieved because the incident took place while they are observing the holy month of Ramadan.
"It is contemptible," Hajii Mohamed, the president of the mosque, told Agence France Presse.
"To attack a religion like this, I don't know what is happening. People lose their heads, especially during Ramadan."
French Jews have also condemned the defilement.
The Representative Council of Jewish Institutions of France said in a statement that it is "outraged by the hateful desecration of the mosque.”
Thus, the prohibition on eating pork is something shared by Muslims and Jews – both the Hebrew Bible and later the Holy Quran specified that the pig must not be eaten.
“And the swine, though he divide the hoof, and be cloven-footed, yet he cheweth not the cud; he [is] unclean to you. Of their flesh shall ye not eat, and their carcass shall ye not touch; they [are] unclean to you,” reads the Book of Leviticus.
The Book of Deuteronomy declares: "And the swine… is unclean unto you. Ye shall not eat of their flesh, nor touch their dead carcass."
Despite this prohibition, Christians across Europe and North America eat pork.
Meanwhile, the Quran says: “He has made unlawful for you that which dies of itself and blood and the flesh of swine and that on which the name of any other than Allah has been invoked. But he who is driven by necessity, being neither disobedient nor exceeding the limit, then surely, Allah is Most Forgiving, Merciful.”
Hindus and Sikhs in India also generally refrain from eating pork, although there are no religious strictures against doing so. Rather, it is more cultural owing to the fact that these faiths espouse vegetarianism and compassion for all animals -- as such, they observe an “unwritten” ban on consuming pork and beef.
Pork is also widely popular in China, Japan and Russia.
According to the USDA Census of Agriculture, on a per capita basis, pork consumption is the highest in Denmark, Spain, Hong Kong, Germany and Hungary.
Palash has worked as a business journalist for 21 years in New York.