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France

French mayors advised to ban antisemitic Dieudonné shows

media Dieudonné Mbala Mbala, 13 December 2013. AFP PHOTO/JOEL SAGET

The French government on Monday issued a memorandum advising local authorities to ban performances by Dieudonné, whose act regularly features antisemitic comments. 

The memorandum is to be sent to Prefects (representatives of the French State at local level) and will recommend that local authorities ban Dieudonné shows on grounds of public order.

“The document should stop the trivialisation of antisemitic remarks”, said a representative of the Prime Minister’s office.

Dieudonné Mbala Mbala, known mostly only by his first name, first became known to the French public as part of a comic double act in the 1990s. He later split with his partner and established a new career as a solo performer. He is scheduled to begin a tour of his show “The Wall” on Thursday in the western city of Nantes.

5,000 tickets at 43E have been sold for Thursday’s performance.

French lawyer Arno Klarsfeld, son of Nazi hunters Serge and Beate Klarsfeld, has called on people to gather in Nantes on Wednesday and demand that the show be banned.

“It is legitimate and normal that when someone uses antisemitic rhetoric and says that not enough Jews were gassed in the gas chambers, that people stand up to protest”, he said.

According to several sources, the local Prefect in the Nantes region could cite Wednesday’s protest as evidence that the Dieudonné show represents a possible threat to public order.

Dieudonné could appeal against any ban. He has already won around 15 such cases where judges have prioritised the right to freedom of expression.

Dieudonné has been convicted on several occasions of making antisemitic remarks.

He has been fined a total of 37,000 euro for such remarks but maintains he cannot pay as he does not have enough money, according to judicial sources.

Licra, an organisation which combats racism and antisemitism in France has now asked prosecutors to investigate whether he filed a fraudulent claim for insolvency.

If he is found guilty of such fraud, he is liable to up to three years in prison and a 45,000 euro fine.

Despite condemnation from French politicians across the spectrum, including the Front National, Dieudonné has a significant number of supporters on social networks, including militant pro-Palestinians and elements of the extreme right.

At the end of his shows members of the audience give what they describe as an “anti-system” gesture, called a “quenelle”, which looks like an inverted Nazi salute.

Dieudonné fans have posted pictures of themselves doing the “quenelle” gesture in front of synagogues, a Shoah memorial and the Jewish school in Toulouse where 3 children were killed by jihadist Mohamed Merah in 2012.
 

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