Anelka says ‘I’m not anti-Semite’
December 30, 2013 - 10:45:31 am
PARIS: French footballer Nicolas Anelka yesterday strongly defended a controversial gesture he made during a weekend match, saying “I am neither anti-Semite nor racist”, even as British football authorities mulled possible punishment.
The 34-year-old Frenchman was widely criticised after he celebrated his first goal at Upton Park by performing the ‘quenelle’ salute made famous by French comedian Dieudonne.
The gesture has been linked to anti-Semitism in France, although others claim it is only used to show solidarity with anti-establishment views.
Thed West Bromwich Albion striker and former member of France’s national team issued a series of tweets rejecting claims that the gesture he made Saturday was anti-Semitic or a thinly veiled Nazi-like salute, as many have interpreted.
His response came amid growing outrage online and internationally, and a risk that he could face match suspensions if England’s Football Association finds his act racially offensive.
Anelka argued in his tweets that the gesture -- in which he thrust his straightened right arm downwards while tapping his bicep with the other hand -- was merely “anti-establishment”.
“I don’t know what religion has to do with it. Of course I’m not an anti-Semite or racist and (I) stand by my gesture.”
He also called on “people not to be duped by the media” which were “lumping together things and causing an argument without knowing what the gesture really means”.
Anelka asserts the gesture was a dedication to a friend, a French comedian named Dieudonne M’Bala M’Bala who has made the salute -- which he calls a “quenelle”, meaning a meat or fish dumpling -- his signature.
Dieudonne, as he is widely known, has made overtly anti-Jewish remarks in public for years. He has been fined seven times for defamation, insult and provocation to hate, and for racial discrimination.
Diedonne claims his gesture only reflects his anti-establishment views, although it is widely interpreted as a Nazi-style or anti-Semitic action in France.
Anelka himself has marred his career with tantrums and controversial remarks. The footballer converted to Islam in 2004.
Meanwhile, the Football Association said yesterday that it would investigate the incident to determine if Anelka should be punished.
He could face a minimum five-ban match under a new anti-discriminatory disciplinary measures introduced in May.
French authorities have already condemned Anelka’s on-field gesture.
French Sports Minister Valerie Fourneyron on Saturday called it a “shocking, sickening provocation” and said there was “no place for anti-Semitism and inciting hatred on the football pitch”.
Interior Minister Manuel Valls is considering whether to ban all public appearances by Dieudonne. Valls said Dieudonne was “no longer a comedian” but was rather an “anti-Semite and racist” who fell afoul of national laws against incitement to racial hatred.