CAIRO, Egypt – Al-Qaida’s No. 2 slurred Barack Obama with a demeaning racial term for a black American who does the bidding of whites in a new Web message Wednesday intended to dent the president-elect’s popularity among Arabs and Muslims and claim he will not change U.S. policy.
Ayman al-Zawahri’s speech was al-Qaida’s first reaction to Obama’s election victory – and it suggested the terror network is worried the new American leader could undermine its rallying cry that the United States is an enemy oppressor.
Obama has been welcomed by many in the Middle East who hope he will end what they see as American aggression against Muslims and Arabs under President George W. Bush. Some believe his race and Muslim family connections could make him more understanding of the developing world’s concerns.
Al-Zawahri dug into U.S. racial history to try to directly knock down that belief and argue Obama will be no more sympathetic than white leaders to what the al-Qaida leader called “the oppressed” of the world.
He said Obama was the “direct opposite of honorable black Americans” like Malcolm X, the 1960s Muslim leader who is known among some in the Arab world and seen as a symbol of anti-imperialism.
Al-Zawahri also called Obama – along with secretaries of state Colin Powell and Condoleezza Rice – “house Negroes.”
The video included old 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 criticize black leaders he accused of not standing up to whites and discrimination.
Speaking in Arabic, al-Zawahri used the phrase “abeed al-beit,” which literally translates as “house slaves.” But in the video message, posted on Islamic militant Web sites Wednesday, al-Qaida supplied English subtitles of the speech that translated the phrase as “house Negroes.”