'Anti-semitic' comedian Dieudonné M'bala M'bala has his show cancelled in France after Nicolas Anelka's inverted Nazi salute

Show that has been widely condemned as anti-semitic is considered a threat to public order

The first stage of a Tour de France by the controversial stand-up comedian Dieudonné M’bala M’bala was banned on Tuesday as a threat to public order – igniting a legal and political row over censorship and free speech. Dieudonné’s show has been widely condemned as anti-semitic.

Almost all 6,000 places for Thursday's show in Nantes in western France had been sold at up to €43 a ticket before the local prefect, acting as chief of police, ordered the performance to be cancelled.

Several other towns on a 22-stage national tour by Dieudonné – the creator of the “quenelle”, a hand-gesture which is alleged to resemble the Hitler salute – have already announced that the black comedian is persona non grata. Tuesday’s decision follows a government circular which strongly recommends regional prefects to ban Dieudonné if they believe that his show could lead to “criminal offences”.

Under the French constitution the national government cannot, in theory, issue a blanket ban on theatrical performances. It is up to regional prefects – the senior national government officials in charge of policing and other matters - to take decisions based on local considerations.

In practice, the wording of the circular issued by the interior minister, Manuel Valls, on Monday offered them little choice. President François Hollande removed any doubt by calling on the prefects on Tuesday to be “vigilant and inflexible” in implementing the recommended ban.

It also emerged on Tuesday that the landlords of the theatre in Paris which permanently hosts Dieudonné’s one-man show have decided to give the comedian notice to quit the premises.

Mr Valls say that Dieudonné’s act – which mocks the Holocaust and accuses Jews of running the world – is no longer artistic or comic but is a form of extremist political rally.  The comedian’s lawyers announced that they would seek an injunction to overturn the ban.

They have a good chance of succeeding. Several previous attempts to prevent him from appearing have been struck down in the courts in recent years as an infringement of liberty of expression.

The decision to, in effect, censor Dieudonné had also been criticised by civil liberties pressure groups, centre-right politicians and the respected centre-left newspaper, Le Monde. The French branch of the League of Human Rights said that a blanket ban would “rally support for Dieudonné for those who consider themselves oppressed”.

Dieudonne M’bala Mbala, 47, whose father was from Cameroon and whose mother is Breton, has a string of convictions for inciting hatred against Jews. His latest show includes a sketch which has resulted in another formal  investigation for “incitement to  racial hatred”.

Talking about a well-known French-Jewish radio presenter, Dieudonné says: “When the wind turns, I don’t think he’ll have time to pack a suitcase. When I hear Patrick Cohen talking, you see, I think of gas chambers. Pity.”

Ten days ago the French footballer Nicolas Anelka brought the controversy surrounding Dieudonne across the Channel. After scoring a goal for West Bromwich Albion at Upton Park, Anelka performed “la quenelle”, the provocative gesture invented  by the comedian.

Anelka said the gesture was in “solidarity with his friend,  Dieudonné, who was already facing a ban in France. He insisted that the gesture was “anti-system” rather than anti-Semitic.

La quenelle or “the meat ball” consists of pointing towards the ground with a flattened hand while folding the other arm across the chest. Critics say that it is a merger between the Nazi salute and an obscene, French hand signal, the “bras d’honneur”. They say that it is manifestly an anti-semitic gesture and understood to be so by the vast majority of Dieudonné’s supporters (including an average audience of 1,000,000 for his shows on You Tube).

News
people

Actress sees off speculation about her appearance in an amazing way

Arts and Entertainment
Serge Pizzorno of Kasabian and Noel Fielding backstage at the Teenage Cancer Trust concerts
musicKasabian and Noel Fielding attack 'boring' musicians
News
peopleLynda Bellingham's tragic final Loose Women appearance moves audience to tears
Arts and Entertainment
'Right Here' singer Jess Glynne is nominated for Best Newcomer at the MOBO Awards 2014
musicExclusive: Jess Glynne hits out at 'ridiculous' criticism of white artists nominated for Mobo Awards
PROMOTED VIDEO
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Arts and Entertainment
Separated at birth? Frank Sivero (left) claims The Simpsons based Mafia character Louie on his Goodfellas character
arts + entsFrank Sivero sues Simpsons studio over allegedly basing mobster character on Frank Carbone
News
Carl Bernstein (left) and Bob Woodward (right) with former 'Washington Post' executive editor Ben Bradlee
people

The Washington Post editor helped Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein bring down President Nixon

News
news

Voices
Stephanie first after her public appearance as a woman at Rad Fest 2014
voices

Arts and Entertainment
Laura Wood, winner of the Montegrappa Scholastic Prize for New Children’s Writing
books

Children's bookseller wins The Independent's new author search

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

IT Teacher

£22000 - £32000 per annum + TLR: Randstad Education Southampton: Our client is...

Database Administrator

£300 - £350 Per Day: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: The role could involve w...

Science Teacher

£21000 - £35000 per annum: Randstad Education Cambridge: Qualified secondary s...

Deputy Head of Science

£22000 - £36000 per annum + MPR / UPR: Randstad Education Southampton: Our cli...

Day In a Page

Indiana serial killer? Man arrested for murdering teenage prostitute confesses to six other murders - and police fear there could be many more

A new American serial killer?

Police fear man arrested for murder of teen prostitute could be responsible for killing spree dating back 20 years
Sweetie, the fake 10-year-old girl designed to catch online predators, claims her first scalp

Sting to trap paedophiles may not carry weight in UK courts

Computer image of ‘Sweetie’ represented entrapment, experts say
Fukushima nuclear crisis: Evacuees still stuck in cramped emergency housing three years on - and may never return home

Return to Fukushima – a land they will never call home again

Evacuees still stuck in cramped emergency housing three years on from nuclear disaster
Wildlife Photographer of the Year: Intimate image of resting lions claims top prize

Wildlife Photographer of the Year

Intimate image of resting lions claims top prize
Online petitions: Sign here to change the world

Want to change the world? Just sign here

The proliferation of online petitions allows us to register our protests at the touch of a button. But do they change anything?
Ed Sheeran hits back after being labelled too boring to headline festivals

'You need me, I don’t need you'

Ed Sheeran hits back after being labelled too boring to headline festivals
How to Get Away with Murder: Shonda Rhimes reinvents the legal drama

How to Get Away with Murder

Shonda Rhimes reinvents the legal drama
A cup of tea is every worker's right

Hard to swallow

Three hospitals in Leicester have banned their staff from drinking tea and coffee in public areas. Christopher Hirst explains why he thinks that a cuppa is every worker's right
Which animals are nearly extinct?

Which animals are nearly extinct?

Conservationists in Kenya are in mourning after the death of a white northern rhino, which has left the species with a single male. These are the other species on the brink
12 best children's shoes

Perfect for leaf-kicking: 12 best children's shoes

Find footwear perfect to keep kids' feet protected this autumn
Anderlecht vs Arsenal: Gunners' ray of light Aaron Ramsey shines again

Arsenal’s ray of light ready to shine again

Aaron Ramsey’s injury record has prompted a club investigation. For now, the midfielder is just happy to be fit to face Anderlecht in the Champions League
Comment: David Moyes' show of sensitivity thrown back in his face by former Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson

Moyes’ show of sensitivity thrown back in his face... by Ferguson

Manchester United legend tramples on successor who resisted criticising his inheritance
Two super-sized ships have cruised into British waters, but how big can these behemoths get?

Super-sized ships: How big can they get?

Two of the largest vessels in the world cruised into UK waters last week
British doctors on brink of 'cure' for paralysis with spinal cord treatment

British doctors on brink of cure for paralysis

Sufferers can now be offered the possibility of cure thanks to a revolutionary implant of regenerative cells
Ranked seventh in world’s best tourist cities - not London, or Edinburgh, but Salisbury

Lonely Planet’s Best in Travel 2015

UK city beats Vienna, Paris and New York to be ranked seventh in world’s best tourist destinations - but it's not London