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Egyptian satirist angers both sides of the political divide - ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive
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In this Sunday, March 31, 2013 file photo, a bodyguard secures popular Egyptian television satirist Bassem Youssef, who has come to be known as Egypt's Jon Stewart, as he enters Egypt's state prosecutors office to face accusations of insulting Islam and the country's Islamist leader in Cairo, Egypt. (AP Photo/Amr Nabil, File)

In this Sunday, March 31, 2013 file photo, a bodyguard secures popular Egyptian television satirist Bassem Youssef, who has come to be known as Egypt’s Jon Stewart, as he enters Egypt’s state prosecutors office to face accusations of insulting Islam and the country’s Islamist leader in Cairo, Egypt. (AP Photo/Amr Nabil, File)

London, Asharq Al-Awsat—Egyptian TV satirist Bassem Youssef has caused anger across the political spectrum in his much-anticipated return to TV screens on Friday following a four-month hiatus.

The day after his controversial—but popular—show aired, at least four complaints about the program’s content were filed with Egypt’s top prosecutor. Such complaints are common in Egypt, but they do not frequently prompt official investigations.

One of the complainants, the politician Ahmed El-Fadaly, said he asked the prosecutor-general to investigate Youssef for “deliberately insulting…Egypt.”

Those complaints are unlikely to have come as a surprise to the popular comedian. He originally rose to prominence when he criticized ousted Islamist president Mohamed Mursi during his year in office, in which Muslim Brotherhood supporters tried to sue him on charges of insulting the president.

Youssef responded to criticism on Saturday by saying that Egyptians only accept satire that aligns with their particular political views, a reference to those who have criticized him for mocking both Mursi and the army chief behind the former president’s ouster, General Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi.

On the other hand, the private station that broadcasts his program, CBC, sought to distance itself from Al-Barnameg’s content in a statement from the directors read on the channel on Saturday night, a sign of just how sensitive Egyptians are to criticism of their government.

Judging from the talk on social media, viewers were divided over criticism of their new government.

The show was watched by millions of ordinary Egyptians, as well as prominent members of the government, business community and cultural scene. Egyptian parliamentarian Mostafa Najjar said that Youssef represented the “real people”—those who support neither Mursi nor Sisi.

During Friday’s program, Youssef scoffed at exaggerated estimates from both the newly installed government and the Muslim Brotherhood about the number of people who supported them. He said supporters of the army claimed 70 million people marched in the streets calling for Mursi’s ouster. Youssef then showed clips of Brotherhood leaders claiming that 40 million went out in support of Mursi.

“If we added the two figures, the total Egyptian supporters of the army and Mursi is 110 million. . . . How could this be the case, when the total population of Egypt is not more than 85 million?” he asked sarcastically.

Egyptian viewers waited eagerly for the moment when Youssef talked about the army and Sisi, as well as interim president Adly Mansour. Viewers didn’t have to wait long to see their latest government mocked by the man who has been described as Egypt’s Jon Stewart. “Let’s talk about the man who runs Egypt,” Youssef said as a picture of army chief Abdel-Fatteh El-Sisi appeared on screen. “No, not him,” Youssef quipped, before moving on to talk about Mansour.