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French-Syrian contestant of ‘Voice France’ causes outrage with ‘terror tweets’

JEDDAH: It was her voice that first landed French-Syrian singer Mennel in the news.
The first contestant ever to wear a headscarf on the French version of popular TV talent show “The Voice” impressed the audience and judges alike with her English-, French- and Arabic-language rendition of talent-show staple, Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah” in the show’s blind auditions, which screened last week.
However, her popularity has led to less-than-welcome scrutiny of her past social media activity. On Sunday, people began to draw attention to posts Mennel wrote in the aftermath of the terror attack in Nice on July 14, 2016, when 86 people were killed and hundreds injured as a truck deliberately plowed into the crowd during Bastille Day celebrations.
“It’s good 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 definitely don’t forget to take your papers,” she wrote the following day.
On Aug. 1, 2016, after the police announced they had identified the Tunisian Mohammed Lahouaiej as the driver of the truck, she added, “Our government are the real terrorists.”
Mennel’s newfound fame has now been accompanied by newfound exposure for her past tweets. And, predictably, outrage has followed, with many calling on the show’s producers to disqualify the 22-year-old singer, who was born in France to a Syrian-Turkish father and a Moroccan-Algerian mother.
Others, though, have questioned whether a white, non-Muslim contestant would have been subjected to the same level of scrutiny involved in trawling through two years of social media posts.
Mennel attempted to answer her critics, saying that her post-Nice posts have been taken out of context and do not reflect her true thoughts and feelings about her homeland.
“I was born in Besançon; I love France, I love my country. I obviously condemn terrorism firmly. That’s the reason for my anger. How could I even imagine defending the indefensible?” she said, adding “I advocate a message of love, peace, and tolerance, the proof is in my choice to sing Leonard Cohen’s Hallelujah. This song perfectly illustrates the message I hope to transmit as an artist.”
Late Tuesday night, Mennel posted on Facebook that some of her relatives were in Nice on the night of the attack, close to where the truck drove into the crowd, and that she “was shocked, upset, and did not understand why this attack could not be prevented by the authorities,” adding that she apologized for the “shock” her messages may have caused and stressing that “two years later” she can see the “lack of reflection” in them.
Whether her explanations will convince the show’s producers remains to be seen.