Karim Benzema’s lawyer has reacted angrily to France’s interior minister’s accusation that the French footballer had ties to the Muslim Brotherhood.
Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin leveled the charges after the reigning Ballon d’Or winner and former Real Madrid striker tweeted a message on social media about Israel’s continuing conflict with Hamas.
“All our prayers are for the inhabitants of Gaza who are once again victims of these unjust bombings which spare no women or children,” Benzema, who plays for Saudi team Al Ittihad, wrote on X.
Darmanin, speaking on the CNews Channel, alleged that Benzema “has a notorious link with the Muslim Brotherhood”.
“This is false! Karim Benzema has never had the slightest relationship with this organisation,” Benzema’s layer Hugues Vigier said in a statement.
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 went on to say that he intended to file a complaint against Darmanin for his comments.
“We are once again witnessing an intolerable exploitation of Karim Benzema and the ‘symbolic figure’ that we like to make him,” Vigier said.
Following Darmanin’s remarks, a politician demanded that Benzema’s Ballon d’Or be withdrawn, as well as his French citizenship. Valerie Boyer, a Senator for Bouches-du-Rhone, said in a press release that she requests “the forfeiture of Karim Benzema’s [French] nationality” if Darmanin’s claims are verified.
“A sanction, initially symbolic, would be to withdraw his Ballon d’Or. Finally, we must request forfeiture of nationality,” Boyer said.
“We cannot accept that a French dual national, internationally known, can dishonour and even betray our country in this way.”
Darmanin, 41, has established himself as a hardliner in the mold of his political master, ex-President Nicolas Sarkozy, and has made no secret of his own presidential ambitions. Benzema is not the first Muslim footballer to speak out, with Liverpool and Egypt’s Mohamed Salah asking for humanitarian relief and a stop to “massacres” in Gaza.
Benzema, 35, was born in France to Algerian parents and has been one of France’s prominent performers over the last decade. He signed a three-year contract with the Saudi club earlier this year following 14 seasons with Real Madrid, where he won five Champions Leagues, four La Liga crowns, and three Copa del Reys.
However, following a great 2021-22 season in which he led Real Madrid to Champions League victory and was awarded the Ballon d’Or as the world’s finest player, he was plagued by ailments that kept him out of France’s World Cup campaign in Qatar last year.