— A French mayor has canceled a rap concert marking 100 years since the World War I Battle of Verdun
after objections from the country's increasingly influential far right.
President Francois Hollande and German
Chancellor Angela Merkel are taking part in a ceremony May 29 to honor those killed in one of the war's bloodiest battles. Separately, the town of Verdun planned a commemoration concert by rapper Black M.
But far-right National Front party members objected to the singer, citing a song by his group Sexion d'Assaut referring to France as a country of "non-believers." Verdun's Socialist Mayor Samuel Hazard said Friday that city hall feared violence during the event because of "hate and racism" generated by the debate so he cancelled the concert.
Black M said he feels "saddened by this situation" and denounced a "worrying and incomprehensible controversy" in a statement released on his Facebook account.
The French singer said his Guinean grandfather Alpha Mamoudou Diallo fought for France during World War II with other soldiers from France's colonial empire, the same corps that served in the Battle of Verdun.
"I felt very proud when I had been chosen to take part in a show on the margins of the commemoration of the Battle of Verdun," he wrote. "I want, through this statement, raise a barrier to hate speech."