Morsi moves to play down vitriolic remarks against Jews

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Egypt’s president Mohamed Morsi has said vitriolic remarks he made against Jews and Zionists in 2010 had been taken out of context and said he was not against the Jewish faith.

“I am not against the Jewish faith, I am not against Jews who practise their religion,” Mr Morsi yesterday told a joint news conference with German chancellor Angela Merkel in Berlin. “I was talking about the practices and behaviour of believers of any religion who shed blood or who attack innocent people or civilians. That’s behaviour that I condemn.”

He added: “I am a Muslim. I’m a believer and my religion obliges me to believe in all prophets, to respect all religions and to respect the right of people to their own faith.”

Berlin was alarmed by video that emerged in recent weeks showing Mr Morsi making the vitriolic remarks against Jews and Zionists in 2010 when he was a senior official of the Muslim Brotherhood. Germany’s Nazi past and strong support of Israel make it highly sensitive to anti-Semitism.

Mr Morsi flew to Germany to try to convince Europe of his democratic credentials, but in a sign of the political tensions back home, he restricted his trip to a few hours and cancelled a planned Paris leg. The Egyptian leader, who has faced months of protests by liberal and youth groups opposed to a new Islamic constitution, said dialogue was possible and that Egypt would be a state based on the rule of law, not run by the military.

But he refused to give a commitment sought by the opposition to form a national unity government, saying that would be for the new parliament to decide after elections expected in April.