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Egypt's belly-dancing, Obama-bashing, viral video-making singer will run for parliament

A still image from Sama El Masry's 2013 video accusing the US of backing terrorism in Egypt. (YouTube)

Sama El Masry, an Egyptian singer, belly dancer, and pro-regime fanatic who became internet famous in 2013 for her bizarre music video telling President Obama to "go to hell," is running for parliament.

El Masry told the Egyptian newspaper Al-Masry Al-Youm that she has filed to run in the spring's parliamentary elections, representing the Azbakeya district of Cairo.

El Masry's music videos, which are completely insane, have been around for a while. In them, she half-dances, bobbing up and down, while speak-singing lyrics about the greatness of Egypt and its military and the perfidy of America and the Muslim Brotherhood. (A popular 2012 video assailed Islamist politician Hazem Abu Ismail, who was disqualified from running for office because his mother had held US citizenship.) She will often wag her finger as she scolds people like President Obama or previous US ambassador to Egypt Anne Patterson and distorted images of her targets appear on screen.

Here is her most viral video, "You Obama, Your Father, Your Mother," which came out in August 2013, a month after military leader Abdel Fatah el-Sisi launched a coup to depose the democratically elected Muslim Brotherhood-led government:

El Masry defended Sisi's coup against American criticism and called Obama a "dirty man," among many other insults; images on-screen variously show him in a beard, in a diaper, and with exaggerated lips. She accused Obama of supporting terrorism and secretly backing the "traitor" Muslim Brotherhood.

The video is crazy, but both its conspiratorial message and its over-the-top rhetoric captures what was a widespread sentiment in Egypt at the time. Many Egyptians, seized by nationalistic fervor, had come to believe that the Muslim Brotherhood and its supporters were terrorists and traitors supported by the US and Israel, and that Sisi's military coup was the pinnacle of national greatness.

Sisi came to power riding a wave of right-wing nationalism that saw him as uniquely prepared to put down the terrorists and to defy the Americans. This video is a glimpse of that sentiment. A few days later, Egyptian forces stormed a peaceful Muslim Brotherhood protest, killing 817 civilians, a number of them women and children. The slaughter outraged much of the world, but was greeted by some Egyptians as necessary and important.

Sama El Masry is far from alone on the Egyptian nationalist right in supporting Sisi's dictatorship and his persecution of Islamists. And elements of the Egyptian left, which has at times been difficult to differentiate from the Egyptian secular nationalist right, were strangely accommodating of both his coup and crackdown.

Her videos, in this sense, are ridiculous and not ridiculous, a sort of glimpse at the id of the Egyptian nationalist right. Like those videos, that movement can seem absurd from the outside but look very different from within Egypt. Whether her run for parliament ends up going somewhere or becomes a short-lived stunt, that movement remains one of Egypt's greatest political challenges.

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