Right-wing French politicians are calling for a ban on a French Muslim rapper appearing at the venue where 90 people were killed by an Islamist commando in 2015. They say the performer, Médine, has called for secularists to be crucified and that his presence would be an insult to the victims.
The calls started on what is known in France as the “fachosphere” – websites and social media linked to the far right – and an online petition for the ban was started by Grégory Roose, a former regional official for Marine Le Pen’s National Front, now known as the National Rally.
A current National Rally regional official, Julien Odoul, tweeted in support, pointing out that a similar campaign succeeded in preventing another rapper, Black M, from appearing at a concert to mark the centenary of the World War I battle of Verdun.
Le Pen herself has tweeted that “No French person can accept that this guy discharges his filth at the very site of the Bataclan massacre.”
Over the weekend leaders of the mainstream right Republicans joined the fray.
“At the Bataclan, Islamist barbarism cost the lives of 90 of our compatriots,” party leader Laurent Wauquiez tweeted. “Less than three years later, an individual who sang ‘Let’s crucify the secularists’, who describes himself as ‘Islamo-scum’, will appear there. Sacrilege for the victims, dishonour for France.”
On Monday his number two, Virginie Calmels, called on Interior Minister Gérard Collomb to ban the performances, scheduled for 19 and 20 October, on the grounds that they are a threat to public order.
Like the Republicans leader in the Senate, Bruno Retailleau, she cited the bans on appearances by comedian Dieudonné as a precedent.
They have been joined by Aurore Bergé, an MP for President Emmanuel Macron’s Republic on the Move (REM), who tweeted that a poster featuring the cover of Médine’s album Jihadis “an insult to the dead of the Bataclan”.
Socialist leader Olivier Faure said that Médine should ask himself whether he should appear.
Victims’ groups oppose call
Although two lawyers representing some of the Bataclan victims said they would file a legal complaint against his appearance on Monday, victims’ group Life for Paris opposed the call in no uncertain terms.
The concert hall was also a victim of the attack, it pointed out in a statement, and is free to book whoever it wants.
“Our group is not an organ of censorship, it will remain apolitical and will not let anyone exploit the memory of the victims for political ends, as is the case in this affair,” it said.
The former vice-president of another group, 13onze15, had harsh words for Marine Le Pen.
“Its crazy how you remember the victims of terorism for your sterile polemics,” Emmanuel Domenach tweeted.
Médine, who is of Algerian descent and was brought up in the French Channel port of Le Havre, has yet to comment on the latest controversy.
But he has previously compared himself to “a bomb disposal expert who has been mistaken for someone who plants them”.
The 35-year-old coauthored a 2012 book Don’t Panik with French academic Pascal Boniface, which they said was an attempt to take the heat out of the French culture war over Islam.
His record company also sells a line of T-shirts bearing the legend: “I’m Muslim. Don’t panik.”
But he first came under fire after the 2015 Charlie Hebdo attacks, in which Islamist attackers killed 17 people, for a track he recorded a week before, called Don’t Laik in which he said “Let’s crucify the secularists like at Calvary… put fatwas on the heads of these idiots.”
But the track also condemns “Nazislamists” and he claims it is an appeal against a “fundamentalist” interpretation of French secularism, rather than the principle itself.
He has since conceded he may have gone too far in that track, however.
Jihad, to which Bergé referred, condemns violence and makes an appeal to a broader interpretation of the term as a struggle for purity and self-improvement.
“My struggle is eternal, it is inside me against my bad self,” it declares.