The controversial French comedian Dieudonné M'bala M'bala faces a potential ban from performing in the country as officials and advocates there continue to decry his material as "anti-Semitic."
Barring the 46-year-old, who goes by first name Dieudonné on stage, and has turned his trademark "La Quenelle" hand gesture into something of a viral trend, is seen by many of his fans as an infringement of his rights.
But France’s interior ministry has fined him a number of times in the past for engaging in hate speech at his shows and elsewhere, the Guardian reported.
His series of remarks considered hateful by many continued as recently as last week, when radio personality Patrick Cohen asked Dieudonné on Radio France if journalists are giving him too much attention.
"When I hear Patrick Cohen speaking, I say to myself, you see, the gas chambers ... too bad," he said, insinuating that Cohen should perhaps leave the country, according to Reuters. He has also described Holocaust remembrance events as "memorial pornography."
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And the La Quenelle gesture, which involves pointing one straightened arm downward while touching that arm’s shoulder with the opposite hand, has been lambasted by Jewish advocacy groups as a “Nazi salute in reverse,” raising tensions over his burgeoning popularity.
France’s Interior Minister Manuel Valls announced on Friday that he is considering banning performances by Dieudonné, who is half-French and half-Cameroonian and ran for the European Parliament in 2009 as part of the far-right “Anti-Zionist List,” Reuters reported.
"Dieudonne M'bala M'bala doesn't seem to recognize any limits any more," Valls said in a statement quoted by the Guardian. "From one comment to the next, as he has shown in several television shows, he attacks the memory of Holocaust victims in an obvious and unbearable way.”
Valls' comments came following a series of complaints by Jewish groups, including the CRIF umbrella organization to French President Francois Hollande.
“It's the Nazi salute in reverse,” Roger Cukierman, head of the Representative Council of French Jewish Institutions, or CRIF, said after complaining about it to Hollande last week. “Very clearly, Mr. Dieudonne is developing a nearly professional anti-Semitism under the cover of telling jokes.”
France has experienced rising levels of intimidation and violence against its Jewish population in recent years, hitting a low point in March 2012, when a rabbi and three students were killed at a Jewish school in Toulouse.