Al-Qaeda in racist attack on Obama
AL-QAEDA yesterday delivered a sharp racial insult to Barack Obama, the president-elect of the United States, in a video that warns of catastrophe if he escalates the war in Afghanistan.
In the recording, purportedly narrated by Ayman al-Zawahiri, al-Qaeda's second in command and chief propagandist, he uses the Arabic phrase abeed al-beit, which translates as "house slaves". But in the video message, posted on Islamic militant websites, al-Qaeda supplied English subtitles that translated the phrase as "house negroes".
Zawahiri used American racial history to make a case to his followers that although Mr Obama is black, he will be no more sympathetic than white leaders to what he called "the oppressed" of the world.
He said Mr Obama was the "direct opposite of honourable black Americans" like Malcolm X, the 1960s Muslim African-American leader, who is seen as a symbol of anti-imperialism.
Zawahiri also called Mr Obama – along with the secretaries of state Colin Powell and Condoleezza Rice – "house Negroes" – a demeaning racial term for a black American who does the bidding of whites.
The video included footage of speeches by Malcolm X in which he explains the term, saying black slaves who worked in their white masters' house were more servile than those who worked in the fields. Malcolm X used the term to criticise black leaders he accused of not standing up to whites and discrimination.
Mr Obama made no comment on the tape, and was reportedly unconcerned by the racist content. Of more concern will be al-Qaeda's determination to fight head-on his promised increase in US troops in Afghanistan.
"Be aware that the dogs of Afghanistan have found the flesh of your soldiers to be delicious, so send thousands after thousands," says Zawahiri. "If you still want to be stubborn about America's failure in Afghanistan, then remember the fate of (George] Bush and (the Pakistan president] Pervez Musharraf and the fate of the Soviets and the British before them."
The video was played over a still of the al-Qaeda No2. The graphics underlined the contrast Zawahiri aimed to show: on one side of the screen was a photo of Mr Obama in a Jewish skullcap and meeting Jewish leaders; on the other was a photo of Malcolm X in a mosque.
Zawahiri said: "America has put on a new face, but its heart full of hate, mind drowning in greed and spirit – which spreads evil, murder, repression and despotism – continue to be the same as always."
He accused Mr Obama of turning his back on his heritage: "You were born to a Muslim father, but you chose to stand in the ranks of the enemies of the Muslims, and pray the prayer of the Jews, although you claim to be Christian, in order to climb the rungs of leadership in America."
Jeremy Binnie, of Jane's Terrorism and Insurgency Centre, said the message suggests al-Qaeda was worried "Obama could be effective in rebuilding America's image". He continued: "They hated Bush, but Bush was good for them in many ways because he was such a polarising figure.
"But Obama seems to be a more uniting figure. Al-Qaeda very much would like the US to stay with its old policies that put it in opposition to much of the Muslim world."
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