“Karim Benzema has – we all know – notorious links with the Muslim Brotherhood. » With this statement on Cnews, Monday October 16, Interior Minister Gérald Darmanin launched a controversy around the former French international, winner of the Ballon d’Or in 2022. According to him, the former Real Madrid striker, which now plays within the Saudi club Al-Ittihad, is linked to the Islamist organization of the Muslim Brotherhood, born in Egypt in 1928. The brotherhood has, however, been banned in Saudi Arabia since 2017.
Accusation of “proselytism”
Faced with the controversy aroused by the minister’s affirmative remarks, Gérald Darmanin’s entourage explains that, “For several years, we have noticed a slow drift in Karim Benzema’s positions towards a harsh, rigorous Islam, characteristic of the Brotherhood ideology consisting of disseminating Islamic norms in different areas of society, particularly in sport. »
What facts are these accusations based on? The same entourage cites, pell-mell, the player’s refusal to sing La Marseillaise when he was still playing for the French team, her ” proselytism on social networks around Muslim worship, such as fasting, prayer, pilgrimage to Mecca”, but also a “photo with the imam of Meaux who was the subject of a search in connection with the assassination of Samuel Paty ». On this last point, Me Hugues Vigier, Karim Benzema’s lawyer, explains that the player took a photo with this imam without knowing who he was.
Furthermore, Karim Benzema is also criticized for his “support for the publication of Russian MMA fighter Khabib Nurmagomedov, real call to hatred following the publication of caricatures of the Prophet Mohammed in the French press”.
For his part and through his lawyer, Karim Benzema categorically denies any link with the Muslim Brotherhood and announces that he wants to file a complaint. “We are once again witnessing an intolerable exploitation of Karim Benzema and the “symbolic figure” that we like to attribute to him,” his council protests.
In Saudi Arabia for religious reasons
This is not the first time that Karim Benzema finds himself at the center of debates linked to his claimed Muslim faith. Of Algerian origin, the man who grew up in Bron, in the suburbs of Lyon, justified his departure from Real Madrid for Saudi Arabia for partly religious reasons. “I am Muslim, it is a Muslim country and I want to live therehe explained. It’s important to be in a Muslim country where I already feel that people love me, it will allow me to have a new life. I want to speak the Arabic language fluently, for me it is important. (…) Mecca is near. I’m a believer so it’s important to me. I am in my place. »
On his social networks, like other Muslim or Christian athletes, he does not hesitate to share his faith, sometimes signing his messages with a “Alhamdulillah” (“Praise be to God”), without revealing any affiliation whatsoever with this or that current of Islam.
On August 7, for example, he posted a short video where we see him on a pilgrimage to Mecca with the simple comment: “The Only Truth”. On another publication, we see him wearing a qamis, wishing a happy holiday for Eid-El-Kébir in July 2021.
— Karim Benzema (@Benzema) August 6, 2023
Already, during an interview for the television channel L’Équipe 21 in 2014, Karim Benzema assured of listening to surahs from the Koran in his corner a few minutes before matches to concentrate. In addition, the former Blues player (97 caps, 37 goals) is one of these Muslim footballers who combine their sporting practice with Ramadan. “It has no impact, he explained in 2022 to the American magazine Esquire. Ramadan is part of my life and my religion makes Ramadan an obligation. For me it is very important and I feel good when I fast. »
In recent days, the footballer stood out with a message on “ for the inhabitants of Gaza who are once again victims of these unjust bombings which spare no women or children”. An expression of solidarity with the Palestinian cause widespread among Muslims, well beyond the Muslim Brotherhood alone.