The power of the Islamic purse has broken new ground in France with the country's first primetime TV advertisement for halal food.
In a surprising development for a country poised to ban the burka, the advert for the first time directly targets France's five million Muslims, offering them microwaveable paella, lasagna and shepherd's pie prepared in accordance with Islamic law.
To make meat halal or permissible, an animal or poultry has to be slaughtered in a ritual way known as Zibah.
Such adverts had previously been only been shown on Arabic satellite channels viewable in the country.
In the advert, broadcast on TF1, France's most-watched channel, as well as rival M6 and digital terrestrial channels, a middle class French Muslim couple rush to a supermarket shelf stocked with Zakia Halal, a brand of Panzani, the food group, as they seek food with which to break their fast during Ramadan.
The husband, who is pushing the trolley, says: "Yes, yes, we eat halal".
"Yes, Zakia halal," adds his wife, miming a "z" for Zorro.
The £260,000 campaign hopes to cash in on a huge halal market estimated to be worth more than £3 billion this year in France, and which is growing at 15 per cent per year. According to one recent study by Solis, an ethnic market research company, almost 94 per cent of French people of North African descent buy halal products.
Reaction among French Muslims was a mixture of surprise and incredulity. "It's the first time I've seen so [many Arabs] in an advert. It proves that Arabs and Muslims are starting to become an economic force to be reckoned with in France," read one posting on the French Muslim website Bladi.net.
"They must have paid TF1 a fortune to show that," said a second user. "The director general's going to get fired tomorrow," warned a third.
According to an Ifop poll released last week, 70 per cent of French Muslims observe Ramadan, the ninth month of the Islamic year, in which a fast is held from sunrise to sunset. It began last Friday.
France's Muslims have been in the spotlight in recent weeks following controversy over the head-to-toe burka, which President Nicolas Sarkozy has said is not welcome in France, and the burkini – a cover-all swimming costume. A French Muslim woman was banned from her local public swimming pool for wearing one earlier this month.