26 Feb-2 Mar 2018

Young Muslim singer will not be silenced

Mennel Ibtissem wowed the jury of the TV program ‘The Voice’ with an Arabic-language song. For days afterwards, media debated on whether or not she should be allowed to stay on the show. Some were bothered by her turban, some by her past.

Roxanne D'Arco
Roxanne D'Arco NewsMavens, France
Source: Le Parisien
Young Muslim singer will not be silenced - NewsMavens
Mennel Ibtissem. Facebook

Why this story matters:

The 22-year-old of Syrian origin comes across as confident and strong with her piercing blue eyes and stylish turban. No wonder she received a lot of attention, enough attention for people to comb through her social media accounts carefully. 

Shortly after her stellar performance, it emerged that Ibtissem had posted a status update hinting that the French government had engineered the Nice attack in 2015. She also called the members of the French government ‘the real terrorists’ shortly after the Saint-Etienne-du-Rouvray attack in July 2016.

Her words prompted a week-long debate on whether or not she should be allowed to compete on the show. Ibtissem abundantly apologized, and finally, on February 8, decided to leave the show, explaining she never wanted to hurt anyone.

According to the influential pro-diversity Bondy Blog, the conservatives and the French far-right movements won. Many are wondering if it was the young woman's views, or her origins and religion that turned France against her.

But on February 21, she unexpectedly announced that she is recording an album. The conservatives may have won the first round, but visibly, the fight is not over.

art,media, religion, scandal

Details from the story:

  • On February 2, French audiences loved Mennel Ibtissem’s performance on the popular TV show ‘The Voice’.
  • The 22-year-old woman sang ‘Hallelujah’ in English and Arabic. The jury commanded her performance.
  • As a Muslim woman, she covers her hair with a turban. She has also Syrian origins but was born in the French town of Besançon.
  • On social media, people unearthed messages where the young woman was critical of the French government, and seemed to believe conspiracy theories.
  • One week after, Ibtissem decided to leave 'The Voice'
  • According to some media, her decision shows that France still has issues with the Muslim community when it isn't submissive. It also shows the difficulty of debating such issues constructively.
  • Ibtissem is currently recording her first album.
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