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French Muslims Gather Supplies for Ramadan

Butcher Haj Mohammed chops pieces of meat at his Halal butcher shop and wraps each carefully for his customers in in Paris's Muslim quarter

Famed American chef, author and television personality Julia Child once called cooking in France a national sport. But for French Muslims preparing for Ramadan, making sure to adhere to dietary regulations for the month-long celebration is a matter of personal devotion. The sweet temptations in Paris make fasting especially difficult.

In the bustling streets of Paris's Muslim quarter, butcher Haj Mohammed is hard at work. With a large cleaver he chops pieces of meat at his Halal butcher shop, and wraps each carefully for his customers.

Ramadan is due to start Wednesday in many parts of the Muslim world, with fasting from sunrise to sunset. The festival starts with the sighting of the new moon in the ninth month of the lunar calendar.

Haj Mohammed says that being in the center of French cuisine is difficult, but fasting is fasting regardless of where he is. "Thank God, it is as it is every year. We fast every year and there is no problem. We are able to fast even though we are abroad," he said.

Sweet temptations

One of the clients outside Mohammed's shop is Boulam Felag, who said he was able to resist the temptations of Parisian bakeries when he thought of how fasting helps his body and mind. "It's good for your health; it's good for your hygiene. It is part of religion. It is good for everyone, for all Muslims," said Felag.

Ismii Ishaq
Ismii Ishaq

Meanwhile, at a local pastry shop Ismii Ishaq carefully places sweets in a decorative box. His counters are filled with sweet delicacies but high amounts of sugar intake are discouraged during Ramadan. Nevertheless, he says he welcomes Ramadan, particularly because of the good deeds called for during the month.

"I am very happy the month of Ramadan is approaching. It is a month of goodness and blessings and good trade, and of charity and alms - giving and helping the poor. It is a month of sacrifice," he said.

The French newspaper Liberation estimates that 70 percent of French Muslims will celebrate Ramadan. The fast continues until early September.