A French rapper known for his provocative pro-Muslim lyrics has cancelled two concerts at the Bataclan, where 90 people were shot dead when gunmen stormed the venue during the November 2015 terror attacks in Paris.
Medine, a French-born singer of Algerian descent, had drawn fire from rightwing politicians as well as some of the victims’ families after announcing the shows at the historic concert hall.
Tickets for the October shows quickly sold out when they went on sale a few weeks after Medine released an album featuring the song Bataclan, where he recounts years of dreaming he would one day play there.
Although he has denounced Islamic fundamentalism since the attacks in the city three years ago, in which 130 people were killed and more than 350 wounded, critics have latched on to songs such as Don’t Laik, where he assails France’s secular policies as discriminatory towards Muslims.
The song, released just a week before the attacks on the Charlie Hebdo magazine in Paris in January 2015, includes lyrics calling for “crucifying secularists” and putting “fatwas on the heads of these idiots”.
A statement the Bataclan said the concerts were cancelled “out of respect for the victims of the 13 November, 2015, attacks and their families”.
It said the goal was to “ease tensions”, while Medine posted on social media that he would play another Paris concert hall in February after making a “painful decision”.
“All I wanted to do was play the Bataclan,” he wrote, echoing the refrain of the song released this year.
Rightwing lawmakers said the concerts would have been “sacrilege” to victims, with the far-right National Rally party organising an online petition for the concerts to be banned.
More recently far-right movements had been urging protests outside the Bataclan to disrupt the concerts.
On Friday, the 35-year-old singer accused them of “exploiting and reviving the pain of the victims’ families”.
Life for Paris, one of the main Bataclan victims’ groups, had also denounced attempts to attack the rapper in their name, defending the concert hall’s right to give its stage to whoever it wanted.
But Medine’s critics were quick to claim victory.
Marine Le Pen of the far-right National Rally called the cancellations “a victory for all the victims of Islamic terrorism”.
L’annulation du concert de @Medinrecords au Bataclan est une victoire pour toutes les victimes du terrorisme islamiste.
Cette provocation n’avait pas sa place dans cette salle, compte tenu de son histoire douloureuse. MLP
— Marine Le Pen (@MLP_officiel) September 21, 2018
Many of Medine’s fans, however, reacted angrily to the news.
“I hate this France which screams ‘I am Charlie’ in the name of liberty but which stops an artist from performing,” a Twitter user identified as HDG wrote, adding the hashtag “I am Medine”.