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Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 21 September 2018

French Muslim singer quits 'The Voice' over controversial social media posts

Mennel Ibtissem was a favourite to win the TV talent show after her English and Arabic version of Leonard Cohen's 'Hallelujah' caused a sensation

Mennel Ibtissem performs Hallelujah during her audition on The Voice. YouTube
Mennel Ibtissem performs Hallelujah during her audition on The Voice. YouTube

A French Arab singer has quit TV talent show The Voice after facing a backlash for social media posts about France's 2016 terror attacks and Israel.

Mennel Ibtissem, 22, announced her decision to leave the programme on Friday following days of controversy over the posts and calls to quit.

In a video posted on Facebook 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 row emerged after her acclaimed performance on the show on Saturday last week, in which she impressed the judges with a rendition of Leonard Cohen's Hallelujah.

After her smooth English and then French take of the first verse, which showcased her quavering jazzy vocals, she transitioned into the Arabic language, with the "Hallelujah" refrain replaced with an equally stirring "Ya Ilahi", which translates to "My God".

The video went viral with more than 900,000 views on YouTube, and led to her becoming a favourite to win the show.

In the social media posts, which have since been deleted, Ms Ibtissem declared her support for Palestine and also criticised the French government for attacks in Paris and Nice.

Some of her tweets from years ago urged the UK to "#StopArmingIsrael". She also condemned Israel for "terrorising innocent civilians".

The tweets were made at the time of Israel’s 2014 assault on Gaza, which resulted in the deaths of more than 2,200 Palestinians, mostly civilians.

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Read more:

Mennel Ibtissem moves 'Voice France' judges with Arabic take of Leonard Cohen’s 'Hallelujah'

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Another post about the Bastille Day attack in Nice in 2016, which killed almost 90 people, is thought to have expressed doubt that the attack was related to terrorism.

According to French media, the post said: "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 don't forget to take your papers."

She also reportedly used the hashtag "#PrenezNousPourDesCons", which translates to: "Take us for idiots".

Ms Ibtissem said the message about the attack was taken out of context. She also apologised and said she "obviously condemned terrorism".

But that didn’t stop social media users slamming her online, and pressure also mounted on broadcaster TF1, which produces The Voice, to force her to stand down from the competition.

Others defended Ms Ibtissem and said she was being unfairly targeted because she is Muslim.

In her video announcing her decision to leave the programme, hundreds of users expressed their support to her.

Born to a Syrian-Turkish father and Moroccan-Algerian mother, Ms Ibtissem has released four YouTube videos over the span of a year on her own channel, where she performs piano covers of songs such as Impossible by Shontelle, Adele's Make You Feel My Love and Halo by Beyoncé.

In her message on Friday, she insisted her "musical career was not ending".

"This decision is not making an end to my musical career. Indeed, this decision is the condition of its accomplishment."

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