'We Will Not Tolerate Hate Against Any Religion'
France will not tolerate any hate speech or acts against Jews, Muslims or Christians, President Francois Hollande said Tuesday, just days after a comic whose sketches were viewed as anti-Semitic was banned from performing.
Hollande hailed as a "victory" a ban on Dieudonne's sketches initiated by Interior Minister Manuel Valls. The controversial comic has since been forced to cancel a nationwide tour after his attempts to challenge the ban in court failed.
The French leader added that all forms of religious hatred would be treated in the same way.
"There are acts, there are anti-Semitic words, there are anti-Muslim actions which all must be denounced," he said, also evoking "anti-Christian acts."
"None of these actions can be accepted," he said. "All citizens have to be protected."
Branded a "peddler of hate" by the French government, Dieudonne has been at the heart of a furor over sketches widely viewed as anti-Semitic that prompted local authorities to block shows in his nationwide "The Wall" tour at the request of Interior Minister Manuel Valls. Hollande also backed the ban.
He tried to challenge the individual bans in court last week but failed, deciding instead to circumvent the ban by presenting an alternate performance called "Asu Zoa" focused on Africa. That performance was successfully greenlit Monday.
Now 47, Dieudonne started his career as part of a double act with a Jewish childhood friend, Elie Semoun.
But he veered towards anti-Semitism and the change burst into the open in 2003, when he concluded a televised sketch for which he had dressed up as a hareidi-religious man with a Nazi salute.
Dieudonne has been fined several times for defamation, using insulting language, hate speech and racial discrimination.
He has directed volleys of abuse at prominent French Jewish performers, rounding off one rant about radio presenter Patrick Cohen with the observation: "Gas chambers ... a shame."
Dieudonne has also been slammed for his trademark "quenelle" stiff-arm gesture, which has been described as a disguised Nazi salute but which he claims is merely an "up yours" to the French establishment.
That claim has been undermined, however, by the publication of pictures of Dieudonne fans performing quenelles outside synagogues, at a Holocaust museum and in front of the school in Toulouse where Islamist gunman Mohammed Merah killed a rabbi and three Jewish children in 2012.
The gesture has landed several personalities in hot water, including soccer player Nicolas Anelka, who used it to celebrate a goal. NBA star Tony Parker apologized for his use of the same gesture, after a picture from three years ago of him making it alongside Dieudonne was posted in the French media.
Dieudonne's popularity - more than 5,000 tickets have been sold for the opening night of his tour - has exacerbated concern over the resurgence of anti-Semitism in France under the guise of a brand of anti-Zionism.
Meanwhile, Anti-Semitism has been skyrocketing in France. One report revealed that anti-Semitic incidents rose 58% in 2012.