French comedian Dieudonne M'bala M'bala.
(photo credit:REUTERS/Gonzalo Fuentes)
PARIS – A French comedian said on Saturday he had dropped a show
banned for its anti-Semitic language, and was planning one that would cause no
On Friday, France’s highest administrative court upheld a ban
on a show by the black comedian Dieudonne M’Bala M’Bala in the central city of
Tours, days after it was also banned in the western city of
Dieudonne said in a statement that his lawyers would continue to
defend the banned show in court, and that his new show, about Africa, would have
none of the language that the courts found objectionable.
“We live in a
democratic country and I have to comply with the laws, despite the blatant
political interference. As a comedian, I have pushed the debate to the
very edge of laughter,” Dieudonne said in a statement on French
Dieudonne, 46, has been repeatedly fined for “hate speech,”
and local authorities in several towns have barred his shows as a threat to
Interior Minister Manuel Valls has urged local authorities
to take a hard line in determining whether or not to ban the show. Dieudonne had
been due to perform in the city of Orleans on Saturday, but the show was
canceled by a local court following a request by the mayor.
Verdier, one of Dieudonne’s lawyers, told the television channel iTele that the
new show would not run foul of the courts.
“Let him work now,” he
Dieudonne’s lawyers have repeatedly said the bans infringe his
right to freedom of speech.
Critics say the comedian’s trademark downward
straight-arm gesture is a Nazi salute in reverse. Dieudonne counters that it is
meant to be anti-Zionist and anti-establishment, but not anti-Semitic.
am not a Nazi, I am not anti-Semitic,” Dieudonne said on
Originally active with left-wing anti-racist groups, Dieudonne
began openly criticizing Jews and Israel in 2002 and ran in European elections
two years later for a pro-Palestinian party.
The founder of the French
far-right National Front, Jean-Marie Le Pen, has said he is the godfather of one
of Dieudonne’s children, but his daughter Marine Le Pen – who now runs the party
– has kept her distance from the comedian.
The Jewish comedian Elie
Semoun, with whom Dieudonne formed a popular comic duo in the mid-90s, said he
did not understand the turn his old friend had taken.
“We worked together
for 15 years. How did you support me for so long?” Semoun said in a short act on
French TV on Saturday.
“When Dieudo and I started out together, we were
the very symbol of anti-racism, to the point that I forgot that I was black and
he was Jewish,” Semoun said.
“Too bad, I loved being black.”
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