Sacked Albion striker Nicolas Anelka today denied he is anti-Semitic and claimed he was misunderstood over his ‘quenelle’ goal celebration.
Anelka’s contract was terminated last month after being handed a five-match ban by the FA over the gesture, which he did after scoring in the 3-3 draw with West Ham in December.
The 35-year-old striker defended himself against accusations that the ‘quenelle’ – invented by his close friend, French comedian Dieudonne M’bala M’bala – was an expression of hatred towards Jews.
“Because some people have performed (the quenelle) in front of a synagogue, then the gesture is suddenly meant to be racist and anti-Semitic in any place and in any situation?
“Sorry, I’m not swallowing that. I’ve tried to swallow it but it won’t go down,” he said.
“So if I understand correctly, all priests are paedophiles and all Muslims are terrorists?
“For me, it’s the same principle. If this continues, the people who decide the quenelle is racist will soon ban us from eating pineapples!
“It’s a vulgar gesture, I grant you. But there was never any religious intent on my part.
“I’m neither racist nor anti-Semitic and this quenelle was a simple dedication.”
Anelka was widely criticised for the gesture by Jewish groups, while Albion’s main sponsors Zoopla withdrew their support in protest and called for him not to be selected.
But Anelka claimed he was misunderstood.
He added: “My quenelle was very misunderstood. I have no record of racism or anti-Semitism – there’s not even a shred of evidence.
“I’ve never had a problem with the Jewish community - why would I have?
“At some point we must stop being paranoid and believing we’re all at war.”
M'bala M'bala has been banned from entering Britain after several of his shows were cancelled in France
But Anelka, who is hoping to resume his career next season and has been training on his own, revealed they have become even closer since the incident.
He said: “Dieudonne was a friend, now he’s become a brother!
“The court (FA disciplinary hearing) asked if he was my friend, I said ‘yes, of course’.
“He’s a comedian, not a politician. He remains for me the best in France.
“It wasn’t easy to support someone who was public enemy number one.”