A controversial French comedian at the centre of the Nicolas Anelka anti-Semitism row has been banned from entering the UK, the Home Office said.
Dieudonne M’bala M’bala previously announced he would visit London to support the West Brom striker, who faces a ban for performing the comic’s ‘quenelle’ salute on the pitch, which is believed by some to be an anti-Semitic gesture.
The Football Association charged Anelka over the pose, struck after scoring against West Ham on December 28, and he faces a minimum five-match ban if found guilty. Anelka has denied the charge and requested a personal hearing.
A Home Office spokeswoman said: “We can confirm that Mr Dieudonne is subject to an exclusion order.
“The Home Secretary will seek to exclude an individual from the UK if she considers that there are public policy or public security reasons to do so.”
The moved was welcomed by Jewish community leaders, who had written to Home Secretary Theresa May a week earlier urging her to exclude Dieudonne following reports he planned to travel to the UK. “Our organisations worked together to provide strong evidence about Dieudonne’s activities, and the risks and tensions that his presence in Britain would have brought,” said the CST’s David Delew, the Jewish Leadership Council’s Simon Johnson and the Board’ of Deputies’ Andrea Kelmanson. “We thank the Government for its prompt and correct decision. The exclusion order demonstrates this Government’s opposition to antisemitism and will be warmly welcomed by both British and French Jews.”
In their letter exactly a week ago, the leaders had warned that any public performance by Dieudonne in the UK “is likely to incite hatred of Jews, based on his record in France. Furthermore, the controversy surrounding any such visit will itself also heighten communal tensions, will cause much unease to the Jewish community and may even trigger some antisemitic hate crimes”.
Dieudonne, who has been prosecuted for inciting racial hatred through anti-Semitic jokes and comments, is credited with creating the quenelle, a hand and arm movement alleged by some to be an inverted Nazi salute.
The 47-year-old comedian, who has previously said the gesture is anti-establishment, had several shows banned in France last month amid fears his portrayal of Jews and mocking of the holocaust were a risk to public order.
He rewrote the shows, dropping much of the material deemed offensive but fans and civil liberties campaigners hit out at the French government for attacking free speech and censorship.
Anelka has also previously said his salute, which he described as a ”dedication” to Dieudonne, was aimed at the French establishment. The player has insisted he is not anti-Semitic or racist.
Shortly after the West Ham game, West Brom released a statement to acknowledge the celebration had caused some offence and Anelka had been asked to refrain from doing it again, with the player agreeing to abstain.
Anelka did not play on Sunday against Liverpool due to injury but started against midlands rivals Aston Villa last Wednesday – Albion’s first match since the player was charged.
West Brom’s shirt sponsor Zoopla earlier announced it had decided to end their association with the club in the wake of the furore.
But new West Brom head coach Pepe Mel has indicated he intends to keep selecting the frontman.
West Brom have said their own internal inquiry into the matter will be concluded once the FA’s disciplinary process has finished, with a hearing expected this month, and they will not be making any further comment.