Olympia cancels comic showamid fury at 'Nazi Jew' skit

19th February 2004, Comments 0 comments

PARIS, Feb 19 (AFP) - A French comic who created a storm of criticism for a televised "Nazi Jew" skit said on Thursday he would fight to keep his career alive after a high-profile Paris music hall became the latest venue to cancel one of his shows.

PARIS, Feb 19 (AFP) - A French comic who created a storm of criticism for a televised "Nazi Jew" skit said on Thursday he would fight to keep his career alive after a high-profile Paris music hall became the latest venue to cancel one of his shows.

Dieudonne M'Bala M'Bala - known in France just as Dieudonne - told France Inter radio that he was "a French humourist just trying to do his work. Today, people are trying to take my work away from me, and I'm going to fight back."

He was reacting a day after the Olympia, a 115-year-old Paris music hall which has hosted artists from Edith Piaf to the Rolling Stones, issued a statement saying it was scrapping his show on Friday because of a "climate of extreme tension".

It said it had received hundreds of telephone calls and faxes protesting the comic's appearance, some of them threatening.

The management said it did not have "the physical capabality to guarantee public safety and respect its duty to providing security for its employees" and would reimburse the 1,500 tickets sold.

But Dieudonne said he was taking the matter to court, arguing the hall had no legal right to scrap the show.

"I prefer to say that the show is not cancelled as long as the judge hasn't made a decision. Let's leave French justice to decide," he said. A hearing was set for later Thursday, he added.

The announcement by the Olympia was the latest blow to Dieudonne's career, which has suffered since he went on national television December 1 to do a sketch in which he was dressed as an orthodox Jew and jokingly urged France's disaffected youths - many of them from Arab backgrounds - to "join the Axis of Good: the American-Zionist Axis."

He finished the skit with a Nazi salute, saying "IsraeHeil".

The incident elicited immediate outrage from French Jewish groups and a reprimand to the network from the broadcasting regulator.

Dieudonne, a 37-year-old atheist born in France of a French mother and a Cameroonian father, has been unrepentant despite being ordered to appear before a Paris court at a date yet to be fixed to answer for the performance.

Shows he was scheduled to do in French towns have since been cancelled, and authorities in Geneva only lifted a ban on a show there after he proffered a written apology for Jews who were hurt by his jokes "taken out of context".

An unknown group calling itself an "anti-racist citizens' collective" seemed to be behind the campaign that led the Olympia to feel Dieudonne's show would have been a safety threat.

The group had called for the Paris police, City Hall and the venue to be inundated with calls demanding the scrapping of the show.

The comic, who has presented the organised barrage against him as a threat to freedom of expression, said that he had already apologised "if my comments (in the skit) offended the sensivities of some people".

But he noted that his humour takes on all sorts of controversial subjects, particularly politics, religion and racial stereotypes. In 2002, an appeals court acquitted him of slander after he called white Catholics racist slavers.

"I'm a citizen of the world, I'm of mixed-race, at the crossroads of two continents, one African and one European ... I don't see any borders inside me and I don't see any in the world."

He added: "I'm surprised that the public authorities of republican democracies back away from the fundamentalist religious pressures."

The decision by the Olympia - which is owned by the Vivendi subsidiary Universal Music - was made as Israeli President Moshe Katzav was in France on a state visit.

A succession of French officials, including President Jacques Chirac, Prime Minister Jean-Pierre Raffarin and Paris mayor Bertrand Delanoe, all assured Katzav their services would do everything to crack down on anti-Semitic attacks.

Israel and some French Jewish groups have claimed such attacks are on the rise in France, despite official French interior ministry figures showing the contrary.

© AFP

                                                              Subject: France news

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