Egypt's Minister of Immigration and Expatriate Affairs Nabila Makram said that the intention behind a recent statement she made that has sparked controversy "was not to promote violence towards any Egyptian or foreigner."
Makram's remarks came in a statement issued on Thursday in response to foreign media reports about comments the minister made earlier this week at a meeting with the Egyptian community in Toronto. A video of the meeting has been circulated on social media platforms and has stirred controversy.
The video shows the minister saying that "anyone who speaks against Egypt abroad will be cut up" while making a throat-slitting gesture.
In the statement, Makram said that she attended an informal meeting with members of the Egyptian community in Canada on 22 July.
"The meeting, like many others that I attend during my trips overseas, was an opportunity for me to engage with Egyptians in an open and supportive environment," she said.
During this meeting, she says, "I spoke about unity and the importance of Egypt as a common bridge between various Egyptian communities in Canada and across the world."
Makram said that she was speaking about how highly Egyptians living abroad regard their country.
"In saying this, and in response to members of the audience, I used a colloquial Egyptian-Arabic phrase and made a gesture that has been taken out of context and its intentions misunderstood," the minister said.
"For many in the audience, and for many Egyptians, the image of their country – particularly in the eyes of foreigners – is highly important. The phrase and gesture I used were implying that many Egyptians living abroad have strong ties to Egypt.
"As such, they want to protect the reputation of their homeland to the extent that they would openly challenge and want to prove wrong any false assertions made about Egypt," Makram explained.
"I can understand how the phrase and gesture I made may be construed as offensive or insensitive.
"In particular, I would like to highlight that my statement was not targeted at any 'dissidents', 'opposition' or 'critics' as has been reported in certain media outlets. Unfortunately, a number of media outlets have not only misinterpreted my statements, but have also misrepresented them to their readers, falsely claiming that I support violence," she stressed.
Makram added that she and the Ministry of Emigration and Egyptian Expatriate Affairs recognise the important role Egyptian communities play in the pursuit of the economic, social, cultural and political development of Egypt – development which requires the voice of all Egyptians.