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France

Anti-Semitic French comedian returns to stage after ban

© AFP

Text by Tony TODD

Latest update : 2014-01-21

French stand-up comedian Dieudonné, whose performances were banned last week because of their overtly anti-Semitic content, was back on stage in Paris on Monday night with a re-written and toned-down version of his controversial show.


Titled “Asu Zoa”, which means “The Elephant’s Face” in the Ewondo language of Cameroon, his father's native country, the one-hour show was more or less identical to the banned version, according to journalists who had seen both performances.

Left out of Monday night’s performance were Dieudonné’s previous declaration that French Vichy wartime collaborationist leader Philippe Pétain was his “favourite president”, a sketch in which a French colonial soldier says sorry to Hitler, and a reference to the gas chambers.

Also removed were the lines: “I don’t have to choose between Jews and Nazis, I am neutral on this” and, “I wasn’t born then, I don’t know who stole from whom, but I have my suspicions”.

The stage remained divided, as in the original show which was titled "Le Mur" (The Wall), by a breeze-block wall. In previous performances Dieudonné had imitated urinating on the structure while calling it the Wailing Wall (a holy Jewish site in Jerusalem).

Despite his show reportedly being re-written to abide by France’s anti-Semitism and racial hatred laws, the Jewish issue was not wholly omitted from his performance at the packed Main d’Or theatre in Paris.

“I am not anti-Semitic,” he told the audience. “No one in this auditorium is anti-Semitic. We can’t be bothered, we don’t have time. We have other things to be getting on with.”

However, he did include a sketch in which France’s tough-talking Interior Minister Manuel Valls gets down on bended knee in front of Alain Jakubowicz, the head of France’s League Against Racism and Antisemitism (LICRA).

Convicted of inciting racial hatred

Dieudonné announced on Saturday that he was scrapping “The Wall” to produce “Asu Zoa”.

The Paris police authorities subsequently overturned the ban on his show, saying that he had had a “reasonable period of time” to re-write the performance and remove the offending elements.

They added that “any content that contravened French law would have legal consequences”.

The 47-year-old has been convicted multiple times for inciting racial hatred in France, and was found guilty on seven separate occasions between 2006 and 2010. He was given fines and damages ranging from 1,000 to 10,000 euros.

He has also attempted to make an entry into politics, heading a list of “anti-Zionist” candidates representing the Paris region in the 2009 EU parliamentary elections.

Dieudonné has faced international criticism for his trademark "quenelle" gesture, which has been described as a reversed Nazi salute but which he insists is merely an "up yours" to the French establishment.

According to a recent poll by research firm BVA, 83 percent of French people have a negative opinion of Dieudonné, but just over half of those are against a ban of his "The Wall" tour. Many expressed concern over what they say are breaches of freedom of speech.

Elsewhere, French daily Le Parisian reported Tuesday that Dieudonné’s 15-year-old son was arrested outside the Main d'Or theatre on Monday with a knife. 

 

Date created : 2014-01-14

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