Last week, French comedian, actor and activist Dieudonné M’Bala M’Bala gained international attention when, in a move backed by French President Francois Hollande and the country’s highest court, his comedy tour was banned in several French cities. The bannings followed a January 6 announcement from France’s interior minister Manuel Valls that he considered Dieudonné’s performances anti-semitic and a “a grave disturbance of public order”.
To be honest, I can’t say I’m familiar enough with Dieudonné to know whether he is anti-semitic or, as has happened to many others, he was given that label because he’s anti-Zionist or just critical of certain policies of the Israeli government. However, given his background it’s highly unlikely that he’s racist. He himself is of mixed race, his father being a white artist and his mother a black accountant originally from Cameroon. He was raised mostly by his mother since they divorced when he was one. His first comedy partner and childhood friend was Jewish, and in the 1997 and 2001 legislative elections in Dreux, he campaigned against racism and ran against the National Front.
Even if Dieudonné was a racist and anti-semite he should not have been censored (though it’s true if his performances weren’t banned I may not have heard of him). No matter how offensive one might find someone’s words and ideas, the best policy is open discussion and debate so people can decide for themselves what to believe and what to reject.