Screencap of Mennel Ibtissem on The Voice, February 10 - The Voice: la plus belle voix/Youtube Channel
CAIRO – 10 February 2018: French Muslim singer Mennel Ibtissem has stepped down from “The Voice” following posts she made on social media wherein she supposedly doubted the 2016 Nice Lorry attack was terrorism.
Ibtissem, a 22 year old student, became an online sensation on following her performance on the France’s version of the TV show "The Voice", where she performed dual-language covers in English and Arabic of Leonard Cohen's "Hallelujah" on Saturday, February 3. She had been one of the top contestants for the show and had impressed the judges. Her performance has been viewed over a million times.
However, her time in the spotlight would be brief. Shortly after her performance, Ibtissem was criticized over tweets she made regarding the 2016 Bastille attack, wherein she expressed skepticism on how the case was reported.
According to the BBC, French media reported that her now deleted tweet said: "It's become a routine, one attack a week! And to remain always faithful the 'terrorist' took his identity papers with him. It's true that, when you're planning a dirty move, you always take your papers with you!"
Several older tweets had been dug up that showed Ibtissem was critical of Israel's 2014 attack on Gaza, which left well over 2,000 Palestinians dead. Her posts called on the UK to "#StopArming Israel", and she called on Israel to stop "slaughtering innocent citizens", according to the BBC.
Ibtissem also made a post shortly after the 2016 French Saint Etienne du Rouvray Church Attack, where an elderly priest was killed by armed men. She posted that the real terrorists were the government.
On Facebook, an association of victims for the 2016 Bastille attack remarked that Ibtissem's statements were "unacceptable." “The Voice's” producers, TF1, were urged by online comments to have her removed from the show.
Ibtissem posted a video on Facebook expressing her regret, stating that her comments had been taken "out of context", but that she would no longer compete in “The Voice”. She remarked that she "obviously condemned terrorism." Though backlash on social media was fierce, several users came to her defense, stating that she was being harshly criticized on the basis of being a Muslim.
In her apology video, Ibtissem stated that:
"I have faith in the future of humanity; I have faith in a future full of love, peace, and tolerance. I have faith in my country, France… But these last days have been very difficult for me, a lot of tension; I've hidden my desire to spread love, peace and tolerance."
"I've never meant to hurt anyone, and the idea that I would do so on purpose pains me a lot."