Egyptian singer Sherine in hot water over Nile 'insult'
Sherine Abdel Wahab, known widely by her first name, apparently joked about a disease in the waterway during a concert in the UAE - and could now face trial for insulting Egypt.
In a video that has surfaced online, a fan requested that she sing her track Have You Drunk From the Nile? – a patriotic hit connecting love of the river with love of the Egyptian nation. The singer replied: "No, you'd get Schistosomiasis! Drink Evian, it's better."
Schistosomiasis, also known as bilharzia, is a parasitic disease endemic to Egypt caused by water contaminated with infected freshwater snails, and has even been found in mummies dating back 5,000 years. The Egyptian government began a $10m campaign to eradicate the disease in 2016.
The light-hearted remark set social media ablaze, with some users calling it an insult to Egyptian national pride. Others said the real culprits are those who pollute the river, and some called the outcry a "crazy" overreaction.
"It's unjustified ridicule and mockery of our dear Egypt," a local musicians union statement said.
President Sisi's regime has relentlessly stoked nationalist sentiment since the military overthrew an elected Islamist president in 2013, portraying nearly all criticism as part of an international plot to undermine the country's stability.
Sherine apologised for her comment in an emotional Facebook post.
"My beloved Egypt and its children: I apologize from all my heart for any pain I may have caused you," she wrote. "It was a bad joke that I would never use if I go back in time."
Insulting the Egyptian state
Ahmed Ramadan and Reda Ragab, board members of the Egyptian Musicians Union, said the singer was banned and must appear before the union to answer questions on the incident. They did not say when the questioning would take place, and it was not immediately clear whether Sherine was in Egypt.
Sherine is also facing two lawsuits over her comments, according to The Guardian. Lawyer Hani Gad accused Sherine of "insulting the Egyptian state" in a lawsuit filed to Cairo's misdemeanours court, alleging that her comments mocked Egypt at a time when the government is working to attract tourists.
On Wednesday, judicial officials announced she was due to stand trial on December 23 charged with breaching an article in Egypt's penal code, which bans deliberately broadcasting information or "false or tenacious rumours" seen as liable to "disturb public security, spread horror among the people or cause harm and damage to the public interest".
Lawyer Samir Sabry also told television host Ahmed Moussa on Tuesday that he had brought a separate case against the singer, accusing her of "hurting the national economy, terrorising tourists and harming tourism". Sabry is known for his prosecutions of private citizens for breaching indecency laws.
Egypt's Radio and Television Union has also placed a blanket ban on playing any songs by the 37-year-old singer, considered one of the most popular in the Middle East.
Agencies contributed to this report.