French singer Mennel forced to quit France’s The Voice over terror posts

Mennel Ibtissem, a 22-year-old student was one of the top contestants on The Voice in France. (Screenshot)
Updated 09 February 2018
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French singer Mennel forced to quit France’s The Voice over terror posts

PARIS: A French Muslim singer who became an overnight star after dazzling judges on a TV talent show quit the contest Friday after coming under fire for past Facebook comments about terror attacks.
Mennel Ibtissem, a 22-year-old student was one of the top contestants on The Voice, where her English and Arabic version of Leonard Cohen’s Hallelujah caused a sensation.
But within days of Saturday’s performance she was under pressure to bow out over old Facebook messages that appeared to question the terrorist nature of attacks that claimed scores of lives in France in 2016.
The posts have been deleted but screen grabs of the remarks have been circulated on far-right websites.
In one post after the July 2016 truck attack in the city of Nice, in which 86 people were killed, she said: “Here we go, it’s become a routine, an attack a week, and, as usual, the ‘terrorist’ takes his ID with him. It’s true that when you’re plotting something nasty you never forget to take your papers with you.”
She was referencing a series of jihadist assaults in France in which police quickly named the killers through documents found on their bodies, including the 2015 Paris attacks that killed 130 people.
In another post, days after two jihadists slit the throat of a priest in his Normandy church, she wrote: “The real terrorists are our government.”
The singer had apologized over the remarks, saying members of her family had been celebrating Bastille Day in Nice when the driver struck and that she had been “upset” by the failure of the authorities to prevent the attack.
But the apology failed to quell the controversy.
With private broadcaster TF1 under pressure to pull her out of the competition, including from relatives of the victims of the Nice attack, she quit on Friday.
“I never meant to hurt anyone and the mere thought that my remarks hurt others hurts me, so I have taken the decision to quit this adventure,” she said in a Facebook video that has been viewed over 860,000 times.
The production company behind The Voice, ITV Studios France, said that despite her earlier apology the atmosphere on the show had become “too heavy” and hoped her decision to withdraw would “soothe tensions.”
But some of her fans expressed disappointment, amid allegations of anti-Muslim bias.
On Ibtissem’s Facebook page, Jihene Ferchiou wrote: “We must not delude ourselves. Your turban, your religion, your origins were the obstacle.
“Clearly we have reached an unprecedented level of racism in France. It’s a disgrace.”


Book Review: ‘It’s the thought of Makkah that keeps me alive’

Updated 1 min 13 sec ago
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Book Review: ‘It’s the thought of Makkah that keeps me alive’

  • Paulo Coelho’s novel highlights merchant’s powerful narrative about the pilgrimage
  • Coelho has a Guinness World Record for the most translated book by any living author

JEDDAH: One of the famous books that refers to the Islamic pillar of Hajj is “The Alchemist,” a novel by the Brazilian writer Paulo Coelho that has been translated into more than 80 languages and sold more than 30 million copies.

The novel highlights the Hajj dream when a young shepherd, Santiago, working for a crystal shop owner tells his employer about his desire to visit the pyramids, which leaves the latter asking why the young boy was so determined about to see the pyramids.

“You’ve never had dreams of travel,” the shepherd boy tells the shop owner in Tangier, the Moroccan city that used to be a part of Al-Andalus until 1062.

The crystal merchant had never thought of traveling, except for Hajj — traveling to Makkah had long been his dream and only thought.

However, the merchant explains to the boy that he lives by the book of Qur’an, and that Islam has five pillars which are mandatory for Muslims to fulfill.

After explaining the first four pillars, the merchant suddenly stops with tears in his eyes. So the boy asks him about the fifth obligation.

The merchant answers: “Two days ago, you said that I had never dreamed of travel. The fifth obligation of every Muslim is a pilgrimage. We are obligated at least once in our lives to visit the holy city of Makkah.

“When I was young, all I wanted to do was to put together enough money to start this shop. I thought someday I’d be rich, and could visit Makkah.”

The merchant refers to those who pass by his shop on their way to Makkah, and to those pilgrims who have performed Hajj and are proudly showing that off on their house doors.

However, when Santiago asks the merchant why he never made the trip and fulfilled his dream, he answers that if he did, he would no longer have anything to live for.

“Because it’s the thought of Makkah that keeps me alive.

“I’ve already imagined a thousand times crossing the desert, arriving at the Plaza of the Sacred Stone, the seventh time I walk around it before allowing myself to touch it. I’ve already imagined the people who would be at my side, and those in front of me.”

Meanwhile, the merchant’s business grows after he agrees to Santiago’s suggestion to sell tea. The tea becomes popular in the town and the merchant hires more staff.

As a result of the shop’s success, Santiago also becomes rich and decides that it is time for him to leave.

One day he wakes early and tells the merchant about his decision to leave and buy a large flock of sheep.

Santiago encourages the merchant to travel to Makkah. However, the merchant believes that he will not go to Makkah because it is “maktub,” which means “it is written,” as his destiny.

Coelho has a Guinness World Record for the most translated book by any living author.