Bassem Yousseff: Arresting the "Egyptian Jon Stewart" Won't Save Morsi From Public "Belittling"

In yet another move to silence opposition, Egyptian state prosecutors ordered the arrest of a popular satirist on Saturday also known as the Egyptian Jon Stewart for allegedly insulting Islam and the country’s president, Mohammad Morsi. It seems that each move Morsi makes these days results in the same type of suppression that the country had seen during Mubarak’s regime.

Bassem Yousseff, the star of his own Daily Show-styled weekly program, El Bernameg, has become the central platform for parodying the government and clerics, as well as fact-checking politicians. He rose to fame following the uprising that led to Mubarak being ousted from his position, initially through an online show which later became broadcast on Egyptian TV.

The comedian is accused of many things, including undermining the standing of President Morsi and corrupting Egypt’s youth. The prosecutor general issued his arrest warrant after at least four Morsi supporters had filed a legal complaint against him.

He isn’t the only one facing an arrest warrant, however. Five other prominent pro-democracy activists also faced the same fate as Yousseff earlier this week by the country’s top prosecutor. The opposition is calling this a growing campaign against dissent.

This also is not Yousseff’s first lawsuit. While his show has gained a large viewership, it has also faced backlash as satirists often do, and has been a target of lawsuits in the past. Most of them have been brought by Islamist lawyers who have accused him of violating "religious principles" and mocking religious beliefs.

According to Prosecutor Mohammed el-Sayed Khalifa, he has heard 28 plaintiffs accuse Yousseff of insulting Islam and "belittling" Morsi in the eyes of his people. However, according to his attorney, Gamal Eid, this is the first time an arrest has been issued for the comedian. Yousseff even handed himself into the prosecutor’s office beforehand in order to avoid an arrest, tweeting with his typical sarcasm that he’d go on his own "Unless they kindly send a police van today and save me the transportation hassle."

His attorney, Eid, says that "the prosecution has become a tool to go after the regime's opposition and intimidate it."

Egypt’s leading pro-democracy advocate and opposition leader, El Baradei, also took to his Twitter to express his thoughts, saying that "pathetic efforts to smother dissent and intimidate media is [sic] a sign of a shaky regime and a bunker mentality."

What Morsi doesn’t realize, however, is that by smothering dissent, he won’t find peace or stability in the nation. Rather, he will see the demonstrations in the country grow even larger. Removing opposition will not better the country’s downward-spiraling situation, but instead will force it to go from bad to worse. Suppression isn’t the answer compromise is. Unless Morsi realizes that in the near future, it is likely he may find himself in exile, much like his predecessor Mubarak. 

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Areej Elahi-Siddiqui

A Pakistani-American undergraduate student at the Seton Hall's School of Diplomacy and International Relations. She enjoys watching inordinate amounts of television, reading far too many books and drinking lots and lots of coffee.

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