French government blasts football star over Gaza support

Karim Benzema has been accused of having ties to the Muslim Brotherhood, which is considered a terrorist organization in France

French football star Karim Benzema has come under fire from the French government after publicly expressing support for the Palestinians amid Israel’s ongoing bombing of Gaza. Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin accused him of having links to the Muslim Brotherhood. 

The controversy began after the 35-year-old, who plays for the Saudi club Al-Ittihad, wrote on X last week that “all our prayers are for the inhabitants of Gaza who are once again victims of these unjust bombings which spare no women or children.” 

Speaking to the French outlet CNews, Darmanin claimed that Benzema had connections to the Muslim Brotherhood, a religious and political group that is outlawed in France. 

“Mr. Benzema is linked, we all know it, notoriously with the Muslim Brotherhood,” the minister claimed, adding that “we are attacking a hydra that is the Muslim Brotherhood because they create an ‘atmospheric jihadism.’” 

As supposed evidence of Benzema’s guilt, one of Darmanin’s spokespeople cited the football star’s refusal to sing La Marseillaise at the start of international matches, and apparent support for posts by Russian MMA superstar Khabib Nurmagamedov who had called to “disfigure” those who supported Charlie Hebdo’s caricatures of the Prophet Mohammed. 

Valerie Boyer, a senator for the Bouches-du-Rhone department, has since also called for the former Real Madrid star to be stripped of his 2022 Ballon d’Or award and for his French citizenship to be revoked if the alleged Muslim Brotherhood connection is proven. 

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“We cannot accept that a French dual national internationally known can dishonor and even betray our country in this way,” Boyer said in a press release. 

Benzema has vehemently denied having any connection with the Muslim Brotherhood and his lawyer Hugues Vigier has stated that the football star has “never had the slightest relationship with this organization” and is considering legal action against Darmanin for defamation over the “false” accusation. 

Vigier also explained that Benzema was merely expressing “natural compassion” with “what many today describe as war crimes being committed in Gaza, but which does not detract from the horror of the terrorist acts of October 7, something not open to discussion.” 

The latest conflict between Hamas and Israel erupted earlier this month when the Palestinian militant group launched a surprise attack on Israeli territory. In response, Israel declared “war” and launched massive airstrikes on the densely populated Palestinian enclave of Gaza. 

According to the latest official data, the fighting has so far claimed the lives of more than 3,800 Palestinians and 1,400 Israelis.

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