Posted on December 24, 2014

France Embroiled in Free Speech Row After Islamophobic TV Presenter Is Sacked

Dan Bloom, Daily Mail, December 22, 2014

France is engulfed in a free speech row after a TV commentator was sacked for appearing to suggest all 5million of the country’s Muslims should be deported to prevent civil war.

The comments by Éric Zemmour, who has previously been convicted of inciting racial hatred, prompted outrage and led to him being dropped from an 11-year stint on a chat show.

But many sprang to the best-selling author’s defence including the far-right National Front leader Marine Le Pen, who declared the move ‘loathsome censorship’.

Mr Zemmour’s interview with Italian newspaper Corriere della Sera went largely unnoticed on the other side of the Alps for more than a month after it appeared in October.

It sparked a public debate, however, after the comments were picked up by former French education minister Jean-Luc Mélenchon.

Although the original interview has been deleted from Corriere della Sera’s website, it was copied and translated several times by people on both sides of France’s political divide.

In the interview Mr Zemmour said Muslims ‘live among themselves’ in suburbs which French people have been forced to leave, according to one of his supporters.

The interviewer then asked: ‘Then what are you suggesting? To deport 5million French Muslims?’

Mr Zemmour is said to have replied: ‘I know it’s unrealistic, but history is often surprising.

‘Who would have thought in 1940 that a million pieds-noirs [Europeans living in North Africa], twenty years later, would have left Algeria to return to France?

‘Or that after the war five or six million Germans would leave Central-Eastern Europe where they had lived for centuries?’

The interviewer protested that Mr Zemmour was ‘speaking of exoduses triggered by immense tragedies’, to which he replied: ‘I think we are heading for chaos.

‘This situation of a people inside a people, of Muslims inside French people, will lead us to civil war.

‘Millions of people live here in France and refuse to live in the French manner.’

The controversy sparked a Twitter campaign with the hashtag #ZemmourDeporteMoi–Zemmour would deport me–and outrage among leading French politicians.

France’s interior minister Bernard Cazeneuve wrote: ‘I am committed to the fight against racism & anti-Semitism to preserve the republican pact and guarantee of our living together #Zemmour’.

Bruno Le Roux, the leader of the Socialist Party in France’s national assembly, said Mr Zemmour’s inspiration appeared to date back to thinking from the Second World War.

‘It’s time for TV shows and newspaper columns to cease harbouring such statements,’ he wrote on his blog. ‘Islamophobia is racism and is not part of the Republic.’

Others–including the journalist himself–hit back at what they described as politically-correct censorship.

On Friday the iTELE channel, where Mr Zemmour has made a regular appearance on a debating show since 2003, said it had cancelled the latest episode and he would no longer appear.

The channel’s director Céline Pigalle told French newspaper Le Figaro, for which Mr Zemmour is also a columnist: ‘We are very careful to respect freedom of expression.’

She said the channel had hosted the controversial journalist for more than a decade ‘so that his ideas are taken into account, contradicted and discussed’.

But she added: ‘Now it seems that it is he who sets the rules and what we are talking. It was less and less the feeling that we can debate.

‘The dialogue has become increasingly difficult, if not impossible.’

France’s population of 5million Muslims is the largest of any country in Europe, and France also has the largest Jewish diaspora on the continent.

Mr Zemmour’s parents were Jewish Berbers who emigrated from Algeria in the 1950s.

His book The French Suicide, which argues France’s identity is being destroyed by factors including immigration, homosexuality and feminism, has sold more than 250,000 copies.

In 2011 he was convicted of inciting racial hatred in France after telling a chat show most drug dealers were ‘blacks and Arabs. That’s a fact’.