A prominent Egyptian editor who threatened that Americans could be slaughtered in the streets has been forced to backtrack on his remarks after they were reported by western media.
In an extreme example of the growing xenophobic rhetoric by media outlets who back the country’s army chief, General Abdel Fatah al-Sisi, Mostafa Bakry made the threat on a major TV talkshow, also warning the US president, Barack Obama, and his “puppets” that “we will enter their houses, and we will kill them one by one”.
Bakry speculated that the US government planned to assassinate Sisi, who ousted Egypt‘s first democratically elected leader, Mohamed Morsi, last July after mass protests against his one-year rule.
“There is a plot to kill General Sisi, and the security services know it well,” said Bakry – a pro-regime journalist known for his provocative behaviour. He then suggested that a similar US-backed plot had led to the assassination of Pakistani politician, Benazir Bhutto.
Such a scenario would lead the Egyptian people to rise up in a “revolution to kill the Americans in the streets”, he said.
Egypt’s foreign ministry later forwarded the following clarification from Bakry himself: “These comments were made regarding terrorism and the terrorist group that is waging a war against Egypt. I am opposed to any violence, including any violence against US citizens, and I would like to make it clear that we have no enmity with or hostility towards the American people at all.
“The intention of my comments was to highlight Egyptian independence, and our adamant refusal to allow any outside party, be that the US or any other party, to interfere in internal Egyptian affairs.”
Bakry’s remarks came as the US is reportedly poised to unfreeze millions of dollars in aid to Egypt after the successful completion of a referendum on a new constitution, and follow praise of Egypt’s post-Morsi transition by US the secretary of state, John Kerry.
Egypt’s pro-regime media have increasingly portrayed any dissent – of either a secular or Islamist bent – against the current regime as an unpatriotic act.
Egypt’s flagship state newspaper, al-Ahram, has several times in recent months used its front page to air claims that the US government has joined forces with Morsi’s Muslim Brotherhood to divide up Egypt into smaller countries, and to spread chaos within its borders.
The Brotherhood also often uses xenophobic rhetoric to smear its opponents. In its propaganda, the US is conversely portrayed as both a supporter and instigator of Morsi’s overthrow.
But Bakry’s earlier outburst is not a reflection of the views of ordinary Egyptians, many of whom crave the return of Egypt’s decimated tourism industry.