French Divided Over Bataclan Performances by Rapper Medine

“All I want to do is the Bataclan, the Bataclan.” Those are lyrics to a song released earlier in the year by rapper Medine. Two of his concerts are scheduled for the Bataclan theater in October. But not everyone wants to see the shows go on.

At issue, in part, are the words to another song by the artist, whose real name is Medine Zaouiche. In the song, “Don’t Laik,” one line goes, “I put fatwas on the heads of idiots.” The song was released in 2015 — the same year that France was hit by several terrorist attacks, including one targeting the Bataclan.

This is not the first time Medina has generated controversy. A decade earlier, he released an album titled Jihad — and he has been photographed in a T-shirt bearing the term, and a massive sword.

Now, thousands of people have signed a petition launched by the far right and demanding Medine’s concerts be canceled. Critics are tweeting their opposition via the hashtag #pasdemedineaubataclan, or “no Medine at the Bataclan.”

On French radio, far-right National Rally party head Marine Le Pen described Medine as an Islamic fundamentalist. His performance at the Bataclan, she said, is a threat to public order.

Victims’ associations are divided. Philippe Duperron, who heads one of them, is against the concerts taking place, out of respect for the victims and the memory of them.

Medine and his lawyers are fighting back. The rapper has criticized Islamic fundamentalism a number of times and says he is against violence. He says “Don’t Laik” is more of a slap at France’s tough secular creed, and that the jihad he refers to is an internal spiritual struggle, rather than violence.

“It’s been 15 years since I’ve criticized all forms of radicalism in my albums,” he posted recently on social media. Banning his concerts, he argues, amounts to caving in to the far right.

Medine’s arguments are drawing support, partly in the name of free expression. That appears to be the argument of Prime Minister Edouard Philippe. 

Still, others argue the divisions over the rapper’s concerts are the worst outcome, at a time when the French should be united against terrorism.