Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Satirist Bassem Youssef: 'Egypt's liberals are as intolerant as the Islamists'

Bassem Youssef
Bassem Youssef, the Egyptian hart surgeon turned television presenter and satirist, said on Tuesday, in the weekly column he writes for the paper Al-Shorouk, that Egypt’s liberals are as intolerant as their Islamist opponents, and as unwilling to accept criticism of themselves or the country's interim-authorities. “Those who defend liberalism and secularism say they are opposed to religious fanaticism and endorse freedom of opinion. However, when it suits them, they use Quranic verses and Hadiths to justify attacks against their enemies, using the same accusations as religious movements,” Youssef wrote.

Youssef  recently started the third season of his program Al-Barnamig (The show) after a silence of about three months. In this first broadcast, last Friday, he as usual poked fun at the ousted president Mohamed Morsi and the Muslim Brotherhood. That was immediately followed by a number of complaints filed by the Muslim Youth Association’s legal adviser, charging Youssef with libel, slander, insulting Egypt and its people, and committing obscene acts in public. In his program Youssef also criticized zealous followers of Army Chief General Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi, whose star is rsing in an unprecedented way since he led the ouster of Morsi. With the result that by Saturday also at least four complaints were filed from the other side, in which  Youssef was accused of defaming the military. One of them accused him of using phrases to "undermine the honour and dignity of Egypt and its people," sowing sedition and spreading lies.
Youssef macde his remarks in Al-Shorouk while the prosecutor started looking into these  complaints. He
underlined the difficult position of  those who oppose both the Islamist and liberal camps and he expressed incomprehension regarding the lack of tolerance that now characterises Egypt’s liberals. “I can understand the intolerance of the religious movement and its penchant for the far-right. At the end of the day, that is their ideological stance, and... at least they are consistent with their beliefs,” he said. “But I can’t understand a current that claims to defend liberalism and freedom but which, in the end, is less tolerant than the religious one. We [can] replace the beard with heavy make-up, the miswak [a traditional teeth-cleaning twig] with a glass of martini… but religious extremism and the political right are one and the same.”
 “Maybe there is a left and maybe there are liberals in Egypt, and maybe there are those who struggle for workers’ rights and for the oppressed and who fight for development programmes and social solidarity; they are cursed by both camps,” Youssef added. “If they are not considered infidels, they are traitors or agents who follow a Western-Zionist agenda.”

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