The story of Mennel Ibstissem is the kind of drama only we French can produce. Since it began earlier this month, the country has been awash in op-eds and blog posts, has seen TV hosts crying and storming off the set, even death threats. But what it reveals about life in France under the shadow of terrorism and the troubled relationship between the country at large and its Muslim population is utterly depressing.
But let us start at the beginning. Mennel Ibstissem is a beautiful 22 year old Muslim girl, born in Besançon to Syrian and Moroccan parents. She became an overnight sensation when she appeared on the French version of the television show The Voice, wearing a hijab and singing a gorgeous English and Arabic language version of Leonard Cohen's "Hallelujah." For a moment, she was the sweetheart everyone loved to love. Then, a website unearthed her tweets from July 2016. Writing in the aftermath of the truck attack in Nice that killed 86 people and wounded over 400, she seemed to suggest that the attacks were a false flag operation and that the government was "the real terrorist."