Egypt bans singer after she mocks the Nile

FILE - In this April 21, 2015 file photo, Egyptian fishermen row on the Nile River in Cairo, Egypt. Sherine Abdel-Wahab, a famous Arab singer widely known by her first name, has been banned from performing in her native Egypt after advising against drinking from the Nile River. A video clip of a recent concert shows Sherine telling a fan: "You are better off drinking Evian," a reference to a French brand of mineral water. (AP Photo/Hassan Ammar, File)

CAIRO - A famous Arab singer has been banned from performing in her native Egypt after advising a fan against drinking from the Nile River, leaders of the local musicians union said Wednesday.

A video clip of a recent concert shows Sherine Abdel-Wahab, a singer widely known by her first name, telling a fan: "You are better off drinking Evian," a reference to a French brand of mineral water.

The 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.

"It's unjustified ridicule and mockery of our dear Egypt," a union statement said.

Egypt's government and media have 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 apologized 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."

The Musicians Union said the concert was in Lebanon, but Sherine's statement said she believed it was in the United Arab Emirates more than a year ago.

The video clip emerged at a sensitive time.

Egypt fears a soon-to-be-completed upstream dam in Ethiopia could cut into its share of the river, which supplies more than 90 per cent of the arid country's water.

The Nile's polluted waters must be treated to be safe for drinking. But critics took Sherine's remarks to imply that Egypt was not doing enough to protect the river at a time when it is trying to rally world support in the dispute with Ethiopia.

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.

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Associated Press writer Samy Magdy contributed to this report from Cairo.


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