France Won't Have A Formal Meal With Iran Because There Won't Be Wine


President Hassan Rouhani of Iran is taking his first official trip to Europe this weekend.

Initially, he had plans to enjoy a formal meal alongside French President François Hollande, but that meal has been canceled because there wasn't going to be any wine, The Washington Post reports.

This is quite possibly the most French news ever.

The Iranians reportedly insisted the meal include halal meat and be wine-free because the consumption of alcohol is forbidden in Iran due to an adherence to strict Islamic law (sharia).

The French, famous for both their vehement secularism and affinity for fine wine and food, apparently did not take kindly to this demand.

While this is not an official quote, France basically said, "F*ck that," when it heard about Iran's request.

Hollande and Rouhani reportedly agreed to meet face to face next Tuesday in lieu of a formal meal.

All of this is somewhat amusing in certain respects, but it also might have very real diplomatic consequences.

France was intricately involved in the recent and historic Iran nuclear deal, and French diplomats took a particularly uncompromising stance throughout negotiations.

While this disagreement over the meal is seemingly insignificant, one might contend it reveals the two nations are still very uncomfortable with fostering an amicable and public relationship.

This occurs at a time when Islamophobia and xenophobia are on the rise in France and Europe in general. These sentiments even inspired far-right groups, like the National Front party, to contend the growing prevalence of kebab shops in France is a form of cultural assault.

In response to these developments, thousands of French people said they will attend an International Festival of Kebabs next year in a town where the mayor took an especially anti-kebab position.

It's true there are elements of intolerance in France, as there is in all countries, but they aren't representative of the population as a whole.

Still, the situation with Iran and the now-canceled dinner speaks volumes about the complexities of the politics and culture of France.

Only time will tell if Hollande and Rouhani can find common ground and move forward from this incident in a diplomatic fashion.

Meanwhile, let's hope those who've rallied against kebabs begin to recognize the food is not a threat to French culture but rather a delicious and convenient option for lunch or dinner.

Citations: France wont dine with Iran unless wine is served (The Washington Post), A French mayor ranted against kebabs His critics retaliated by declaring an international kebab festival. (The Washington Post), France Takes Toughest Line at Iran Nuclear Talks (The Wall Street Journal)