Until the middle of last month, French Interior Minister Gérald Darmanin had a reputation that verged on the scandalous.
This is a man who suffered rape allegations in his career as a politician. He caused a stir when he announced a year ago that he wanted to “tackle the ghettos” in France, and is famous in football and sports circles for doing the “hold my hat” thing two years ago after the Champions League final, which was a total failure of the French authorities and police.
At all – this is this type of Darmanin.
But for a few weeks he has outdone himself. Quite casually, while participating in a television program regarding the protests of various communities in the country over the conflict in Gaza, the minister announced:
“People with positions and popularity in society should be an example and not give wrong signals. But what about one Karim Benzema, for example?
He appears to be a member of the Muslim Brotherhood group. We all know he has ties to them. We are fighting the hydra that is this Islamist group, and a famous man like him is proclaiming their ideas.”
Karim’s lawyer responded in kind with an official release to the media.
“This is a lie,” wrote Hugo Vigier. “Karim never had anything to do with the organization in question. The fact that he posted on social networks that he was praying for the people who were bombed in their houses…
Obviously, this is neither propaganda for Hamas nor any support for terrorism.”
Other politicians, however, joined in the attack on the striker, who has been playing in Saudi Arabia for months. They recalled the scandal with the extortion of his teammate Mathieu Valbuena, which went to court and linked him to Marseille gangsters of Algerian origin.
Also, a politician announced in the parliament, where the topic came up with Darmanin’s words, that “it has been clear to everyone for years what Benzema’s position is, so he doesn’t even sing the anthem of France before the national team matches”. Valerie Boyer – the MP in question, ordered other things in her speech. She called for the footballer to be stripped of his French passport and citizenship if his ties to the Muslim Brotherhood were proven. And to call on FIFA to take away the Golden Ball won in 2022.
This woman is not alone in her vitriolic attack on the nine.
French MEP Nadine Morano openly called Benzema “an element of Hamas propaganda”. Lawyer Vigier threatened her with a lawsuit, as he did with Darmanin.
The most frightening words came from the far-right politician Eric Zemur, who declared that “the connections are obvious” and then delivered a tirade that really blew up French society.
“People like Benzema – with huge popularity, Muslims, extreme in their position, contribute to the propaganda of groups that want jihad. And jihad, this is the murder of Dominique Bernard. This is the murder of Samuel Patty (the two teachers killed by Muslim extremists in France in cases that caused a huge response in society – b.a.).”
Even former president Nicolas Sarkozy somewhat supported Darmanin, commenting that the minister’s words “should at least be taken seriously and the situation investigated.”
The attack on Benzema is unprecedented and brutal.
He himself remains silent for the moment. His lawyer has spoken out and threatened to sue at least two (so far) of the politicians trying to make his client a jihadi, extremist and terrorist supporter.
But the moment is not far when Karim will erupt as well.
We certainly haven’t seen the end of this story.