France may ban French comic’s show for ‘anti-Semitism’
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French Interior Minister Manuel Valls announced on Friday that he would try to legally ban performances by French comic and actor Dieudonné, who has frequently been accused of anti-Semitism.
Dieudonné is best known for televised sketch comedy and a one-man show in Paris, in which he professes staunch anti-Israel views that many say amount to hate speech. He has also downplayed the significance of the Holocaust, calling commemorations “memorial pornography”.
“Despite a conviction for public defamation, hate speech and racial discrimination, Dieudonné M’Bala M’Bala no longer seems to recognise any limits,” a statement released by Valls read. “Consequently, the interior minister has decided to thoroughly examine all legal options that would allow a ban on Dieudonné’s public gatherings, which no longer belong to the artistic domain, but rather amount to a public safety risk.”
‘Time to silence him’
Roger Cukierman, the president of CRIF, the main French Jewish lobby, applauded the decision in an interview with French television channel i>TELE.
“It’s a step in the right direction, because if we continue letting him do as he pleases, violence could result,” he said. “It’s time to silence him. He’s no longer a comic; he has become a peddler of hate.”
The latest controversy surrounding Dieudonné began when footage captured by a hidden camera planted in his theatre was broadcast on French television channel France 2 in mid-December.
Performing onstage, Dieudonné said about prominent French Jewish radio journalist Patrick Cohen: “Me, you see, when I hear Patrick Cohen speak, I think to myself: ‘Gas chambers…too bad [they no longer exist].”
Radio France, Cohen’s employer, announced on December 20 that it had alerted authorities that Dieudonné had engaged in “openly anti-Semitic speech”, and various French anti-racism watchdog groups filed complaints.
Friends on the far right
Dieudonné is also behind a hand gesture known as the “quenelle” – described as a sort of downward-pointing Nazi salute – that has become popular among some young people in France.
The French-born son of a Cameroonian father and a white French mother, the 47-year-old Dieudonné has a diverse legion of followers, though his main fans tend to be young French people who espouse “anti-system” views.
But the comic has also found support on the far-right political fringe; he counts Jean-Marie Le Pen, former leader of the far-right National Front party, as a close friend and has regularly invited well-known Holocaust denier Robert Faurisson onstage during his shows.