French Muslim TV contestant who sang Leonard Cohen cover quits over controversial Facebook posts

(JTA) — A Muslim singer who moved many viewers in France with her rendition of a Leonard Cohen song on “The Voice” left the television show following the discovery of her conspiracy theories involving terrorist attacks.

Mennel Ibtissem’s departure was announced Thursday, a week after anti-racism groups, including Jewish ones, began calling for her dismissal over remarks she wrote on Facebook in 2016. In those post she suggested that the authorities, the media or both were making up reports that Muslims were behind terrorist attacks.

“I am anguished by the tensions that have come up in recent days,” Ibtissem, who in 2015 sang a pro-Palestinian propaganda song denouncing Israeli attacks on “mothers, little sisters and little brothers,” said in a video announcing her decision to leave. “I never wanted to offend anyone.”

She also thanked “all those who accepted my apologies” for her past statements.

The TF1 television channel that produces “The Voice” made clear they found her remaining on the show untenable. “Despite the sincere apologies, the atmosphere remained too tense. We hope her decision and the words she used will help ease the tensions,” a channel spokesperson told France TV Info.

Ibtissem, the show’s first contender to perform while wearing a Muslim head covering, wrote in 2016 following the murder of a priest in Saint-Etienne-du Rouvray by an Islamist that “the real terrorist[s] are our government.” The same year, one day after a jihadist terrorist attack in Nice in which 86 people died, she seemed to peddle a popular conspiracy theory that Muslims are being framed for false-flag attacks.

“It’s becoming a routine: An attack each week!! And sure enough, the ‘terrorist’ takes with him his identity CARD. Of course, when planning a dirty you always take papers! #DontTakeUsForFools,” she wrote on Facebook. In a separate post in 2016, Ibtissem said her country has “a shitty society,” that she is “sick of the French system” and that she’s “eager to get the hell out of here.”

On “The Voice,” she performed a French and Arabic-language rendition of Cohen’s “Hallelujah.”

The National Bureau for Vigilance Against Anti-Semitism, or BNVCA, joined many other anti-racism groups in condemning Ibtissem and demanding she be taken off the air.

“The candidate’s beauty and charm, her talent, must not in any way serve as a pretext for the television channel,” the organization said in a statement. “Mennel cannot serve as a role model for uninformed fans. She is not a good role model, she is not a good choice, she is dangerous.”

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