Outrage in France Over 'Jihad' Rapper Set to Perform at Bataclan Hall

French politicians slam Medine's performance slated for October at the Paris venue where 89 people were killed in the November 2015 terror attack

People stand in front of the Bataclan concert venue during ceremonies across Paris marking the terror attacks in 2015, November 13, 2017.
STEPHANE DE SAKUTIN/AFP

Medine Zaouiche – aka Medine – is a French rapper of Algerian descent, born in the French port of Le Havre. His specialty seems to be provocation that drives almost everyone crazy.

His lyrics attack the soft underbelly of modern-day French axioms about Muslims, Islam, male-female relationships among believers and so on. He’s caused uproars in the past with phrases like “crucify secularists” and his comment about polygamy in Islam – “It’s better than the deeds of Comrade Strauss-Kahn,” a reference to allegations that former French politician Dominique Strauss-Kahn sexually assaulted several women.

Medine, 35, married with two children, describes his experiences growing up with a dual French-Algerian identity in a gruff voice, using lyrics he writes himself. He touches both on historical events (the Algerian War of 1954-62) and current events (the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, which he describes as a battle that is personified), among them what’s going on in Africa. His lyrics have prompted harsh responses from politicians, feminists, Jewish organizations and others.

But the storm he’s generating right now seems likely to surpass its predecessors. It erupted the moment the media reported a few days ago that Medine, who among other things put out an album in 2005 titled “Jihad,” will appear on October 19 and 20 in the Bataclan concert hall in Paris – the same venue where a terror attack during a concert in November, 2015 killed 89 people.

The first reaction came, predictably, from Marine Le Pen, who recently switched her party’s name from the National Front – which was beginning to smell too much like the old far right – to the more refined National Rally. On her Twitter account, she wrote (in free translation), “No Frenchman can accept the fact that a guy like that is going to spew his garbage out in the place where the Bataclan massacre happened. It’s indifference or, even worse, incitement to Islamist fundamentalism. Enough already!”

Eric Ciotti, a prominent parliamentarian from the traditional rightist party The Republicans – the ruling party under former President Nicolas Sarkozy – issued an emotional plea to President Emmanuel Macron. “Putting rapper Medine’s performance in the Bataclan is an intolerable insult to the memory of the victims of November 13, 2015,” he wrote. “There are symbols that must not be desecrated. I urge Emmanuel Macron to forbid the concert to be held.”

Other politicians asked Interior Minister Gerard Collomb to ban the performance for the same reasons used in the past, for example, to nix shows by racist, anti-Semitic entertainer Dieudonne: the fear there will be a disturbance of the peace and dissemination of hate speech.

Even some members of Macron’s ruling party, La Republique En Marche, have protested Medine’s planned concert. A spokeswoman for the party’s delegates to the National Assembly, Aurore Berge, said on Sunday that the performance would be an insult to the victims of an atrocity, and added: “His lyrics are nothing more and nothing less than a call to murder. ‘Crucify the secularists like at Golgotha' – that's a statement.”

So far, there has been no response to the uproar from the controversial rapper himself or his associates. But in media interviews following previous attacks on him, Medine has explained how he sees his lyrics: “You have to judge them as raps, not as Islamist position papers. Moreover, this isn’t criticism of secular people, but of what they make of secularism – they turn it into a propaganda campaign against religion.”

Now, everyone is waiting to see how the authorities in Paris respond.