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Legendary singer-songwriter Bob Dylan has been charged in France with incitement to racial hatred following comments he made to French Rolling Stone that compared Croats to Nazis and slave owners.
Dylan was questioned and charged last month following a lawsuit filed by interest group the Council of Croats in France. The suit was filed in response to an interview Dylan gave French Rolling Stone in 2012. In the piece, the reporter asked the singer, a very public figure in the U.S. civil rights movement of the 1960s, how much he felt America had progressed since slavery and the Civil War.
“This country is just too f—ed up about color. It’s a distraction. People at each others’ throats just because they are of a different color. It’s the height of insanity, and it will hold any nation back — or any neighborhood back. Or any anything back,” Dylan is reported as saying.
“Blacks know that some whites didn’t want to give up slavery — that if they had their way, they would still be under the yoke, and they can’t pretend they don’t know that. If you got a slave master or Klan in your blood, blacks can sense that. That stuff lingers to this day. Just like Jews can sense Nazi blood and the Serbs can sense Croatian blood.”
That final comment incensed the Council of Croats, which filed a suit under France’s laws banning hate speech or incitement to racial hatred.
“It is an incitement to hatred. You cannot compare Croatian criminals to all Croats,” said Council of Croats secretary general Vlatko Maric in a statement, confirming that the French courts have agreed to hear the case. “But we have nothing against Rolling Stone magazine or Bob Dylan as a singer.”
Dylan’s remarks have led several Croatian radio stations to remove his music from their playlists.
The news comes just weeks after Dylan was given France’s Legion of Honor, the country’s most prestigious award. The singer last played in Croatia in 2010.
The International Business Times reports that Dylan has been asked to appear during the hearing.
France’s anti-hate speech laws are notoriously strict. If Dylan is found guilty, he could face a fine.
A representative for Bob Dylan has yet to comment on the news.
Danish director Lars von Trier was investigated under the same French hate speech legislation for saying he “understood Hitler” at a press conference at the Cannes Film Festival. The investigation was later dropped, though the director decided to stop speaking publicly as a result.
Croatia’s relationship to its wartime past — particularly the country’s collaboration with the Nazis during World War II — has recently came into sharp focus. Croatian national soccer player Josip Simunic, celebrating his country’s soccer World Cup playoff win over Iceland, led local fans in a chant associated with the Ustasha, Croatia’s rulers during WWII. Croatian prosecutors fined Simunic for “spreading racial hatred,” and soccer governing body FIFA has begun disciplinary proceedings against him.
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