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French Court Rules Controversial Comedian's Show Can Go Ahead

NPR | Jan. 9, 2014 9:27 a.m.

Contributed By:

Krishnadev Calamur

A French court has ruled that comedian Dieudonne M'Bala M'Bala, seen here on May 13, 2009, can perform in Nantes on Thursday night. Authorities want to ban the performances because they are perceived to be anti-Semitic.

A French court has ruled that comedian Dieudonne M'Bala M'Bala, seen here on May 13, 2009, can perform in Nantes on Thursday night. Authorities want to ban the performances because they are perceived to be anti-Semitic.

Remy de la Mauviniere, AP

A French comedian whose performances authorities want to ban because of the act’s perceived anti-Semitism has been given the go-ahead to perform in the city of Nantes.

A court ruled Thursday that Dieudonne M’bala M’bala’s show Thursday night that will open his nationwide tour can go ahead. About 5,000 tickets have been sold for the performance.

Critics say that Dieudonne’s straight-arm gesture, known as a “quenelle,” is a reverse Nazi salute, but the 46-year-old comedian says it is anti-Zionist and anti-establishment. He denies it is anti-Semitic. But as the BBC notes:

“He has seven convictions for anti-Semitic hate speech and his latest show is also said to contain a string of derogatory references to Jews. … The French government has made a concerted effort to stop the comedian’s new tour after Dieudonne was recorded making blatantly anti-Semitic remarks about a Jewish journalist.”

French Interior Minister Manuel Valls said Thursday he’d appeal the court’s ruling. Valls is leading the effort to stop Dieudonne’s tour.

Several cities, including Nantes, had banned the performance, but Dieudonne’s lawyer said his client’s freedom of expression was being violated. Jacques Verdier, the lawyer, called Thursday’s ruling a “total and complete victory.”

Dieudonne’s gesture also made headlines across the Atlantic when the NBA’s Tony Parker used the quenelle in a photograph with Dieudonne. He later apologized, saying he was unaware of the gesture’s meaning.

In Britain, Nicolas Anelka, a soccer player for West Browich Albion, used it while celebrating a goal. He called it “a dedication to Dueudonne.” He faces a sanction from the Football Association.

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