France mulls ban on Dieudonne after Anelka Nazi-style salute

By Rosa Doherty, December 30, 2013
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French Interior Minister Manuel Valls has said he is considering banning the comedian Dieudonné's shows in January over concerns for public safety.

The announcement came following a Premier League football match on Saturday at which footballer Nicolas Anelka, a friend of Dieudonne, gave a Nazi-style salute said to have been popularised by the comedian.

Dieudonné is known to have performed the “quenelle”, a downward version of the Nazi salute, as part of his stand-up routine.

He has been fined on a number of occasions for inciting racial hatred and hate speech, and last month he was ordered to pay £28,000 for mocking the Holocaust in a song.

Dieudonné claims the salute is anti-establishment and denies that his material is racist or antisemitic.

But Mr Valls, who is keen to ban his performances, said: "Freedom of expression is sacred but racism and antisemitism are crimes.”

The comedian is due to perform to tour France from January 9.

Marseille and Bordeaux are both exploring the possibility of a ban on his shows, and Caen, Montbéliard and Nice have cancelled his shows.

Mr Valls told Le Parisien that the last straw had been when Dieudonné attacked Jewish journalist Patrick Cohen.

Mr Cohen had asked the comedian if he thought he was getting too much press attention, and he responded:

“When I hear Patrick Cohen speaking, I say to myself, you see the gas chambers….. too bad [they no longer exist]”.

Dieudonné's lawyer Jacques Verdier said it would be impossible to ban his shows and authorities have admitted that even if a physical ban were in place, he could still perform via the internet.

Mr Anelka, who performed the quenelle after a scoring a goal for West Bromwich Albion in a match that was being broadcast on French television, said on Twitter he intended it as a “special dedication” to Dieudonné.

The gesture triggered a strong reaction in France and across the sporting world, and is being investigated by the Football Association.

French Sports Minister Valerie Fourneyron said Mr Anelka’s gesture was a “shocking and sickening provocation”.

Pictures emerged this week of NBA star Tony Parker giving the same Nazi-like salute on a French TV show.

Last updated: 12:05pm, December 30 2013