German football club Darmstadt have released Tunisian midfielder Anis Ben-Hatira after facing criticisms over of his links with a Muslim charity, the BBC reports.
Islamic charity Ansaar International has been criticised by the German press due to its “Salafist” links.
German authorities have stated that “almost all” terrorist networks in the country are linked to the Salafi movement.
However, the overwhelming majority of Muslims who subscribe to the Salafi movement are non-violent, and their aim is to revive the Muslim community to return back to the teachings of the first three generations of Islam – known as the “Salaf as-Saliheen”.
German politicians have also criticised Ansaar International.
Peter Beuth, interior minister of the state of Hessen, where Darmstadt is located, said on Tuesday: “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 the Federal Office for the Protection of the Constitution.”
Darmstadt’s president said the club felt Ben-Hatira’s involvement with the charity was “wrong”.
“Further co-operation makes no sense,” Rudiger Fritsch added. “We wish Mr Ben-Hatira, who has always behaved impeccably, every success in his future sporting career.”
On Saturday, Darmstadt fans unfurled a banner calling on Ben-Hatira to distance himself from Ansaar International.
The Berlin-born player responded the next day on Facebook, describing the fans’ actions as a “smear campaign”.
Ben-Hatira defended his work with Ansaar, who have projects in occupied Palestinian territories, Somalia, Afghanistan and Syria.
“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,” he wrote.
He added: “Are you not ashamed? Do you really think I’ll let myself be intimidated by that?
“I think the real scandal is that there is now an attempt to sabotage my sports career in Germany.”