Egypt Government can’t take jokes, goes all fascistic on comic mocking Muslim Brotherhood
Declaration of Support. Seriously.
In Cairo on April 12, the TV anchor on the Al-Bernameg show looked straight into the camera and said: “I hereby declare my total support of all that is Muslim Brotherhood.”
The current Egyptian President, Mohammad Morsi, has long been a Muslim Brotherhood leader. His government is heavily influenced, if not dominated, by the once-secret, still shadowy organization that is widely suspected of trying to turn Egypt into an Islamo-fascist dictatorship.
The TV anchor continued his declaration of support for the Muslim Brotherhood, as the party’s symbol appeared on the screen beside him and slowly began to rise:
“After all, they are our masters now.
“Where else can you find such a superior race, purer than rainwater?
“It is a superior race, which declares that nobody else belongs to Islam.
“It is an Aryan race, a superior race, a race that deserves to rule us, to mount us, and to dangle its feet over our backs.
“It is a race that is predestined to remain pure and clean,
so it cannot marry your kind.
“These Muslim Brotherhood genes do not come free of charge.
“Do not resist. Are you crazy?
“Stand still, do not cross the line. They are your masters — “
By now, as the TV anchor quickly pasted a small mustache on his upper lip, the Muslim Brotherhood symbol had risen far enough to reveal the Nazi swastika behind it. Smartly the TV anchor extended his right arm in familiar salute and shouted:
“HEIL MUSLIM BROTHERHOOD!!! ….We’ll be back after the break.”
The anchor of the Al-Bernameg show (in English, “The Show” show) is Bassem Youssef, the former heart surgeon who, since the Egyptian revolution of 2011, has become increasingly world-famous as a satirist of the old school. Unlike most of his counterparts in the U.S. and elsewhere, Youssef is willing to risk truth to power in calling his government an incipient Nazi regime.
The April 12 show was the last of his current nine-month series of weekly shows, during which he’s been subjected to numerous illegal-speech lawsuits brought by allies of the government and Muslim Brotherhood. Youssef says the break in production will last only a few weeks, while he attends “a very important international event” that he declines to name.
Egyptians Are Not Big Free Speech Fans
Youssef’s legal troubles are rooted in Egypt’s new constitution, written and enforced by the Muslim Brotherhood and its Islamist allies. Thus the constitution provides for an undefined freedom of expression (Article 45), which is contradicted by the prohibition that “the individual person may not be insulted” (Article 31) and a prohibition against “the insulting of prophets” (Article 44), leaving significant leeway for suppressing free expression.
Egyptian law also allows individuals to file complaints based on being personally offended, and the state prosecutor has the freedom to enforce such complaints as he wishes, leaving little protection for those perceived as political opponents of the regime.
In early April, a dozen individuals joined in a complain against Youssef, alleging that he had defamed President Morsi on his show, by showing clips of the president’s interviews and suggesting they earned him an Oscar for best actor, editing, directing, screenplay, and picture.
The plaintiffs wrote that they “suffered massive harm and were psychologically affected by this nonsense, ridicule and slander addressed to the head of the state.”
More recently, Youssef has reported that prosecutors are also investigating three new complaints against him for “insulting Islam” and “spreading atheism,” as well as “insulting the state of Pakistan and causing tensions in its relations with Egypt.”
Persecution Brings Worldwide Media Attention
In late March, Youssef got worldwide, mainstream news coverage when another set of complaints led the prosecutors to issue a warrant for Yussef’s arrest, a step they had not used on previous occasions of complaints. When he gave himself up the next day, he was quickly released on bail of 15,000 pounds Egyptian (about $2,200).
He also mocked the whole process, tweeting that “Officers and the lawyers of the public prosecutor’s office want to take pictures with me – is this the reason for the summons?” He also tweeted wondering why they hadn’t offered him a glass of water.
In short order, the judge threw out the prosecution’s case, pointing out that that the plaintiff had no right to seek the relief requested, which was the cancellation of Youssef’s show. A Muslim Brotherhood lawyer promised to appeal this decision, claiming, “I’m an Egyptian citizen who refuses to compromise the security of the country or to legalize abusing the symbol of the Egyptian people.”
Meanwhile, the El-Bernameg show went on and Youssef, himself a devout Muslm, got to mock the fascist mindset he see among Islamist totalitarians.
The Point of Satire Is Standing Up to Immoral Authority
Explaining his approach to the show, Youssef told Al Arabiya April 15:
“Satire in the whole world, including caricature and sarcastic TV programs, is always directed at the authority as a main source of inspiration; they stand against the authority. They are the sarcastic voice of the opposition against the authority.
“The second point on which the sarcastic programs depend is the right- wing, which always is a very good source for comedy and sarcasm all over the world…. The idea is that the right-wing or the right-wing power anywhere in the world is a very good source of irony. As evidence on what I am saying, the eight year era of George W. Bush witnessed the climax success for all the comic sarcastic programs ever. I mean, there were comedy programs that were about to be closed by the year 2000 towards the end of Clinton’s rule. When George W. Bush came, they were happy!”
Asked about the government’s hostility against him, the governments fear of program and attempts top quash it, Youssef was skeptical:
“Have you ever heard about a TV program in the whole world overthrowing a regime? If I can overthrow the regime this means that the regime was very vulnerable in the first place, and hence it does not deserve to stay….
“Don’t they say that I am a clown or a joker, so why are you so afraid of this clown?… This proves that the regime is weak, not that my show is the reason behind this.”
Asked for his response to the continuing government harassment over his alleged failure to be “Islamic” enough, Youssef answered, “To those who tell me, ‘You insult the sheikhs and scholars,’ I say: the equation is very simple. Just like you don’t consider us Muslims, we don’t consider you sheikhs and scholars”