Local authorities in Nantes barred the opening date in
Dieudonne M'bala M'bala's tour set for Thursday, hours after
similar shows were banned by mayors in Marseille, Bordeaux and
The row is the latest upset to ties between France's large
Muslim and Jewish communities. It won international attention
last week after former France striker Nicolas Anelka celebrated
an English Premier League goal with a salute popularized by
Dieudonne which critics say has an anti-Semitic connotation.
"I am calling on all representatives of the state, particularly
its prefects, to be on alert and inflexible," President Francois
Hollande said, referring to regional officials charged with
maintaining law and order in France.
"No one should be able to use this show for provocation and to
promote openly anti-Semitic ideas," he told a meeting of senior
government officials in Paris.
Lawyers for Dieudonne, who has been fined repeatedly for hate
speech, said they would take legal action to defend him.
"Freedom of expression is not at the whim of governments or a
comedian," they said in a statement announcing the launch of
legal complaints for defamation and invasion of privacy.
They accused the Socialist government of using the issue to
rally voters ahead of municipal and European elections in coming
months where widespread anger at unemployment is seen fuelling a
strong vote for the far-right National Front.
Its leader, Marine Le Pen, has striven to distance the party
from its earlier anti-Semitic leanings. She told Le Figaro
newspaper she was "shocked" by Dieudonne but criticized the
government for exaggerating the importance of the affair.
[to top of second column]
REVERSE "NAZI SALUTE"
Dieudonne supporters say the public order argument is false
because he performs inside theatres rather than in the streets.
Interior Minister Manuel Valls pushed to ban his
shows after Jewish groups complained about his trademark
straight-arm gesture, which they call a "Nazi salute in reverse" and
link to a growing frequency of anti-Semitic remarks and acts in
In the worst recent anti-Semitic incident, a French
Islamist killed a rabbi and three pupils at a Jewish school last
year in the southwestern French city of Toulouse.
Dieudonne, 46, Paris-born son of a Cameroonian father and French
mother, says the gestures is a statement of his anti-Zionist and
anti-establishment views, not anti-Semitism.
West Bromwich Albion striker Anelka is being investigated by the
English Football Association for using it during a December 28
soccer match. NBA basketball star Tony Parker, a Frenchman, has
apologized for a three-year-old photo of him making the salute.
Two soldiers were sanctioned by the army in September for making the
gesture in uniform in front of a Paris synagogue. Other supporters
have submitted photos of themselves to fan web sites making the sign
at Berlin's Holocaust memorial and near the gates of the Auschwitz
Nazi concentration camp in Poland.
(Additional reporting by Mourad Guichard
in Orleans; Elisabeth Pineau in Paris; editing by Tom Heneghan)
[© 2014 Thomson Reuters. All rights
Copyright 2014 Reuters. All rights reserved. This material may not be published,
broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.