Civil war has broken out in the bizarre world of Dieudonné, the black, anti-Semitic comedian at the centre of the “Nazi” salute row surrounding the footballer Nicolas Anelka a year ago.
Several black supporters of Dieudonné M’bala M’bala, including former bodyguards, have turned against him, complaining of his increasingly close connections with white, allegedly racist, groups in France and what they claim is his supposed obsession with personal enrichment. Their disillusionment is based partly on Dieudonné’s alliance with Alain Soral, an essayist and activist who has himself been accused of anti-Semitism. These ill-sorted comrades – the campaigner against the oppression of black people and the former official of the far-right Front National – launched a political party last month called Réconciliation Nationale.
In response, former supporters of Dieudonné have started an internet campaign to undermine the black comedian’s fervent support base in the poor, multi-racial surburbs surrounding French cities. Amont other things, they have posted on the internet an extraordinary exchange of emails earlier this year allegedly sent between Mr Soral and a Guinean model called Binti Bangoura.
In Pictures: The controversial 'quenelle'
In Pictures: The controversial 'quenelle'
1/6 The 'quenelle'
People perform the 'quenelle' gesture during a demonstration in Paris on Sunday 26 January
2/6 The 'quenelle'
A man holds a placard reading 'Freedom of speech' as people perform the 'quenelle' gesture during a demonstration called by the Collective 'Day of Anger' in Paris on 26 January
3/6 The 'quenelle'
Two men hold a pineapple and perform a 'quenelle' during a demonstration called by the Collective 'Day of Anger', supported among others by the conservative 'Printemps Francais' ('French Spring') movement and the fundamentalist Christian group 'Civitas', to protest against the French President's policy. The pineapple is in reference to a song by Dieudonné M'bala M'bala
4/6 The 'quenelle'
Belgium member of parliament Laurent Louis performs a quenelle salute while addressing journalists on 21 January as he leaves Brussels' council chamber following his hearing in a case in which he is suspected of concealment after he showed post mortem pictures of the autopsy report of Dutroux' victims Julie and Melissa at a press conference on pedophilia
5/6 The 'quenelle'
A man holding a pineapple performs a 'quenelle' salute in front of a line of French police officers after one of Dieudonné's performances
6/6 The 'quenelle'
West Bromwich Albion's French striker Nicolas Anelka gestures as he celebrates scoring their second goal against West Ham United
Mr Soral, 56, is a champion of traditional family values and an overtly anti-Semitic polemicist, but also a self-declared expert on picking-up women. He published a book on the “sociology” of pick-up techniques and has claimed 700 conquests. Ms Bangoura initially expressed an interest in Mr Soral’s politics. After an email exchange, she claims, Mr Soral suggested a sexual relationship and sent a naked image of himself (which has since been widely posted online, provoking ribaldry).
Ms Bangoura, 33, says that when she rejected Mr Soral’s advances, he sent her further emails in which she alleges he said, among other things, that “whites think black women are whores, which most of them are” and “your fate will be to be a whore for Jews”.
Ms Bangoura has started a legal action against Mr Soral for racial abuse. In an interview on his own website Mr Soral did not deny making the comments but said they had been “taken out of context” as part of an “outpouring of mud” to discredit his alliance with Dieudonné. He said the comments were made several months ago when he “ended” a “virtual love affair” with the young woman on the internet.
Dieudonné, 48, a successful comedian with his own theatre in eastern Paris, has been convicted several times in recent years of making anti-Semitic jokes or statements.
He came to international attention on 28 December last year when his friend, the footballer Nicolas Anelka, performed Dieudonné’s trademark arm gesture, the “quenelle” after scoring for West Bromwich Albion against West Ham United.
The quenelle (literally the meat-ball or fish-ball) is an “anti-establishment” gesture, according to Dieudonné and his admirers. His critics, however, maintain that it is a cross between a Nazi salute and an obscene French hand-signal.
In the ensuing row, Mr Anelka received a five-match ban and an £80,000 fine, and left English football. Dieudonné was ordered to remove anti-Semitic segments from his stage show, including a “joke” in which he said that a Jewish radio journalist “reminds me of gas ovens”.
Dieudonné claims black people, Arabs and the white working class are victims of a global “Zionist” conspiracy. He once campaigned against the far-right Front National but has, in recent years, become a close friend of the party’s founder, Jean-Marie Le Pen, and a disciple of Mr Soral.
The comedian’s videos have won him widespread admiration in the French suburbs. He has also – it is alleged – become extremely rich. A raid over alleged fraud – denied by Dieudonné – on his home near Paris in January uncovered more than €600,000 (£470,000) in cash.
Now several prominent former supporters of Dieudonné are trying to use videos and other postings on the internet to sound the alarm.
The campaign is led by Jérémie Maradas-Nado, alias Jo Dalton, a former leader of the Black Dragons, a gang which defended black people from attacks by white skinheads in the 1990s. He was for several years the leader of Dieudonné’s bodyguards.
Of Dieudonné and Mr Soral, Mr Dalton now says: “At first I told myself that these guys were breaking new ground – that they were courageous. Then I saw more and more people with shaven heads and swastikas. By allying himself with fascists, Dieudonné has betrayed the black cause.”
Other former supporters claim that – despite frequent appeals for money to pay his fines for anti-Semitic comments – Dieudonné is very wealthy man. They complain that the comedian has failed to invest money in the causes for downtrodden people he champions in his shows.
Another former Dieudonné bodyguard, named only as Jessie, told the newspaper Libération: “In truth, they don’t give a stuff about Palestine, the black cause, or social inequalities.” Dieudonné has retaliated by accusing Mr Dalton of “extortion” and being a “Zionist stooge”. Mr Dalton has created, with friends, a website called Les Vrais Savent (“Real People Know”). In recent weeks they have posted the alleged email exchange between Mr Soral and Ms Bangoura – and the purported image of Mr Soral – in an attempt, they say, to reveal the true nature of Dieudonné’s political theories.Reuse content