Lord Ahmed has "completely and unreservedly" apologised to "the Jewish community, to the judiciary, to the newspaper owners" for blaming Jewish-owned media organisations for his imprisonment for dangerous driving in 2009. His remarks were made in a Pakistani television interview uncovered by the Times earlier this month.
In an exclusive interview with the Huffington Post UK, the peer - who has been suspended from the Labour Party pending an investigation - said he had "the greatest respect" for the Jewish community and could not "believe [the video] when I saw it". He said his comments were "completely wrong", "unacceptable" and the product of a "twisted mind" - but took "full responsibility" for them.
Ahmed said he is "not anti-Semitic" and pointed out that, since entering the House of Lords in 1998, he has had "the honour of addressing the World Jewish Congress in 2000... working with the Maimonides Foundation, One Voice, the Joseph Interfaith Foundation, going to Israel and synagogues here in the UK."
Asked why he had made such offensive and conspiratorial remarks, Ahmed replied: "I don’t really have any explanation or excuse."
The peer also conceded that some Muslims "cross the line between 'Israeli government' policies and 'Jewish' policies" but said that he himself had, on several occasions, "interrupted people and said: 'This is not a Jewish issue.' As far as I am concerned, we [Muslims] don’t have any problem with the [Jewish] faith."
His comments were backed by fellow Jewish Labour parliamentarian, Gerald Kaufman MP. "I have witnessed Nazir reprimanding people who've made anti-Semitic remarks at public events," Kaufman told HuffPost UK. "He's not only not anti-Semitic, he's pro-Jewish.
"At the last general election, Nazir came to my constituency to actively support me against a Lib Dem candidate who happened to be a Muslim."
Ahmed told HuffPost UK that he had "embarrassed" himself by appearing to endorse anti-Semitic conspiracy theories: "I only believe in facts and to be honest I should have stuck with the facts rather than with conspiracy theories."
The peer also apologised for embarrassing the Labour leader Ed Miliband. "He's of the Jewish faith and I'm sorry that I embarrassed him - or anybody else in the Labour Party." He added: "I’m particularly sorry to all my colleagues in the House of Lords and in the House of Commons because one thing many of them know is that I'm not anti-Semitic or a conspiracy theorist."
His apology, however, was slammed by the Jewish Community Security Trust (CST), which monitors and campaigns against anti-Semitism. “This apology by Lord Ahmed will be greeted with much suspicion as it comes in response to a journalist, rather than having been made directly and voluntarily to those who were most offended by the remarks,” CST spokesman Mark Gardner told HuffPost UK.
Read Mehdi Hasan's full interview with Lord Ahmed here.
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