Darmstadt and Ben-Hatira part company over links to Islamic group Ansaar International

January 26 – Bundesliga club Darmstadt have released one of its players over his links with an Islamic charity. Tunisian midfielder Anis Ben-Hatira has left by mutual consent following criticism of his ties with Ansaar International.

Darmstadt president Ruediger Fritsch said the club feels Ben-Hatira’s private humanitarian assistance for the organisation “is wrong.”

“Further co-operation makes no sense,” Fritsch added. “We wish Mr Ben-Hatira, who has always behaved impeccably, every success in his future sporting career.”

Ansaar International is described in Germany as “firmly interwoven in the German Salafist scene.” German authorities say “almost all” terror networks in the country have evolved out of the movement.

Salafism is an ultra-conservative branch of Sunni Islam and  Darmstadt fans recently unfurled a banner calling on Ben-Hatira to distance himself from Ansaar. But the Berlin-born player was defiant,  accusing opponents of a smear campaign and responding on Facebook, “Do you really think I’ll let myself be intimidated by that?”

“Anyone who looks at my CV will quickly see that I am socially involved and fight for equal treatment between people of different skin colour, ethnicity or faith. I think the real scandal is that there is now an attempt to sabotage my sports career in Germany.”

Those who support Ansaar insist its aim is simply to bring Muslims back to an earlier interpretation of their religion.

But Peter Beuth, interior minister of the state of Hessen, where Darmstadt is located, said: “You cannot let a professional footballer like Ben-Hatira carry on when he’s in the vicinity of extremist organisations that are being observed by [Germany’s domestic security agency].”

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