Posted on February 9, 2018

French Muslim Singer Quits TV Show Amid Row over Online Posts

BBC, February 9, 2018

A Muslim singer who became an internet sensation following her performance on France’s The Voice has quit the TV show after being criticised for comments she had made on social media.

In one post, Mennel Ibtissem, 22, had expressed doubts about the terrorist nature of the 2016 Nice lorry attack.

She said the message from the day after the attack was taken out of context.

A video of her singing Leonard Cohen’s Hallelujah had gone viral, being watched 900,000 times on YouTube.

The social media comments, which have now been deleted, emerged after her acclaimed performance on the programme.

French media reported that in a post about the attack in Nice, in which 86 people were killed on Bastille Day, she said: “It has become a routine, one attack a week!

“And to always remain faithful the ‘terrorist’ took his identity papers with him. It’s true that, when you’re planning a dirty move, you don’t forget to take your papers.”

The message reportedly included the hashtag “#PrenezNousPourDesCons”, meaning “take us for idiots”.

The driver of the lorry was identified as a 31-year-old Tunisian man.

Weeks later, after men burst into a church in Saint-Etienne-du-Rouvray killing an elderly priest, she said: “The real terrorist is our government.”

The comments sparked a social media storm, with some users saying it was an insult to the victims of the Nice attack. The association of the victims said they were “unacceptable” (statement in French).

Pressure also piled on broadcaster TF1, The Voice’s producers, to remove the singer from the competition.

Others, however, came to the singer’s defence, saying she was being unfairly targeted for being a Muslim.

After the posts emerged, Ms Ibtissem apologised, saying she “obviously condemned terrorism”. But on Friday, she announced she was leaving the programme.

In a video posted on Facebook in English she said: “I’ve never meant to hurt anyone and the idea that I would do it on purpose pains me a lot.

“[I’ll] keep spreading my message of peace and tolerance, far from all types of fanaticism.”

The announcement in French has been watched more than 500,000 times, with hundreds of users expressing support to her.