French Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin has accused renowned footballer, Karim Benzema of having ties to the Muslim Brotherhood, a proscribed group in France, after he voiced support for Palestinians in Gaza.
“We are attacking a hydra that is the Muslim Brotherhood because they create an ‘atmospheric jihadism,’ like Gilles Kepel would say,” said Darmanin, in reference to the political scientist.
Following Darmanin’s unfounded allegations, French Senator Valerie Boyer, vice-president of the conservative Les Républicains Party, called to strip Benzema of his French citizenship.
“If the minister’s comments are true, we have to consider sanctions against Karim Benzema,” Boyer said on X.
Boyer even called to take away Benzema’s Ballon d’Or; the highest individual award a professional football player can receive, which Benzema won in 2022, claiming it could be a “first, symbolic sanction,” and suggested “the deprivation of his nationality” as a second punitive measure against the Franco-Algerian player.
Benzema posted his support for Palestinians on Sunday amid Israel’s ongoing war in Gaza, which has killed at least 3,500 Palestinians, a majority of them children.
Toutes nos prières pour les habitants de Gaza victimes une fois de plus de ces bombardements injustes qui n’épargnent ni femmes ni enfants.
— Karim Benzema (@Benzema) October 15, 2023
Benzema, 35, said on X “All our prayers are for the people of Gaza who once again fell victim to this unjust bombing, which did not spare women or children.”
In response to the French official’s accusations, Benzema’s lawyer Hugues Vigier said in a statement: “This is false! Karim Benzema has never had the slightest relationship with this organisation.”
He added that Benzema was 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 lawyer added that he was planning to file a complaint against Darmanin for his comments.