Al-Qaida released a video aimed at demeaning Barack Obama in the eyes of its supporters today.
The message by the terror group’s deputy showed it was worried the next president could undermine its claim that the US was an enemy and oppressor, analysts said.
Ayman al-Zawahri branded Barack Mr Obama a “house negro”, a racial term for a black American who does the bidding of whites.
His speech was al-Qaida’s first reaction to Mr Obama’s election victory.
Mr Obama has 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 Bush.
Al-Zawahri dug into American racial history to make a case to the region that although Mr Obama is black, he will be no more sympathetic than white leaders to what the al-Qaida leader 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 rights leader, who is known among some in the Arab world and seen as a symbol of anti-imperialism.
Al-Zawahri alo called Mr 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 criticise 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 websites, al-Qaida supplied English subtitles of the speech that translated the phrase as “house negroes”.
The 11-minute, 23-second video featured an audio message by al-Zawahri, played over a still image of him. The video graphics underlined the contrast al-Zawahri aimed to show: On one side of the screen was a photo of Mr Obama wearing a Jewish skullcap and meeting Jewish leaders. On the other side was a photo of Malcolm X praying in a mosque.
Some in the Islamic world have expressed hopes in Mr Obama in part because of his race and because his Kenyan father was born to a Muslim family, believing that could make him more understanding of the developing world’s concerns. Al-Zawahri’s comments were directly aimed at undermining that belief.
Al-Zawahri addressed “all the world’s weak and oppressed,” and warned them: “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 to gain power.
“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,” he said.
“It appears that you continue to be captive to the same criminal American mentality towards the world and towards the Muslims,” he said.
Jeremy Binnie, an analyst with Jane’s Terrorism and Insurgency Centre, said al-Zawahri’s message suggests al-Qaida leaders are worried “that Mr Obama could be effective in rebuilding America’s image”.
In Washington, State Department spokesman Sean McCormack called al-Zawahri’s comments “despicable”, saying they showed the contrast between democracies and “what these terrorists stand for”.