Bassem Youssef: The Egyptian Jon Stewart is raising his voice

Satirical comic Jon Stewart was unhappy that his Egyptian counterpart went to court over the weekend. Bassem Youssef continues to speak out. Photo: AP

CHARLOTTEApril 2, 2013 – The Egyptian equivalent of Jon Stewart, Bassem Youssef, recently sent his American counterpart into a lengthy rant when he was arrested for his satirical commentary.

Youssef, who has utilized social media and television in the past two years with meteoric success throughout Egypt, the Arab world and even the west, gave himself up to the Egyptian court in Cairo over the weekend. The controversial comedian is being investigated on three charges: insulting Islam, insulting the president of Egypt and spreading false news with the aim of disrupting public order.

Youssef was eventually released, though he continuously tweeted messages throughout his hearing that immediately went viral. Due to his strong following with expatriates from Egypt and the Arabian peninsula living in other parts of the world, Youssef spontaneously reached thousands of avid devotees.   

Since beginning his campaign, Youssef has consistently remained a powerful advocate of the revolution. One of his goals is to maintain support for democracy in his country.

The irony of the accusation of insulting Islam leveled against the outspoken satirist is that Youssef is said to be a devout Muslim who values the purity of his faith. He does, however, point out the bigotry and hypocrisy of radical clerics and their supporters.

Moderate Muslims and others who share Youssef’s interpretations of Islam face an uphill battle in their quest because the tenets of the religion as expressed through Muhammad do favor the  extreme aspects of its structure.

Much like Barack Obama when it comes to criticism, Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi has a thin skin. While he publicly expresses freedom of speech, especially to western media, Morsi is not inclined to take negative comments lightly.

Despite holding the most powerful position in the country, Morsi has a low tolerance fro outspoken positions such as those advocated by Youssef. Some analysts believe that the strict law making such disapproving rhetoric a crime could easily be employed to silence Morsi’s detractors. While the experts sense that Youssef may have already crossed the line, he also possesses the advantage of a powerful following.

On the third count regarding the spread of false news with the aim of disrupting public order, Jon Stewart underestimates the strength of his own influence as well as that of Youssef. According to Stewart, he does nothing more than reflect the mores of society on any given day and comment upon them. In Stweart’s world he has little power to influence his audience.

With the increasing popularity of social media and its worldwide instantaneous access, no longer are the opinions of commentators such as Stewart and Youssef able to be suppressed. Indeed they do carry significant weight among their followers, even more clout, perhaps, than many traditional news sources.

In that sense, the third charge leveled against Youssef could have more far-reaching implications for Morsi than the comedian might willingly admit. At some point the focus of the second and third violations could merge.

In the end it boils down to a matter of freedom of the press and freedom of speech in post-Mubarak Egypt. Morsi must come to realize that the people he is currently repressing are the very people that put him in power.

In an ideal world Morsi would allow free speech and a free press. The fact that he resists only serves to point out the fear, inadequacy and insecurity he senses regardless of the strength of his position.

Unfortunately, Morsi is part of the Muslim Brotherhood, and it is neither in the philosophy nor the nature of that organization to allow the freedoms of expression that would change the face of Egypt.

Consequently, Bassem Youssef, the Egyptian Jon Stewart, must continue to make his voice heard in the wilderness of the Middle East. Difficult and insignificant as that may seem, it is a voice that needs to be heard.

Contact Bob at  <ahref=””>Google+</a>

Peabod is Bob Taylor, owner of Taylored Media Services in CharlotteNCTaylor is founder of The Magellan Travel Club, which creates, and escorts customized tours to SwitzerlandFrance and Italy for groups of 12 or more.

Inquiries for groups can be made at Taylored Media has produced marketing videos for British Rail, Rail Europe, Switzerland Tourism, the Swedish Travel & Tourism Council, the Finnish Tourist Board, the Swiss Travel System and Japan Railways Group among others.

As author of The Century Club book, Peabod is now attempting to travel to 100 countries or more during his lifetime. To date he has visited 71 countries. Suggest someplace new for Bob to visit; if you want to know where he has been, check his list on Facebook. Bob plans to write a sequel to his book when he reaches his goal of 100 countries. He also played professional baseball for four years and was a sportscaster for 14 years at WBTV, the CBS affiliate in Charlotte.

This article is the copyrighted property of the writer and Communities @ Written permission must be obtained before reprint in online or print media. REPRINTING TWTC CONTENT WITHOUT PERMISSION AND/OR PAYMENT IS THEFT AND PUNISHABLE BY LAW.

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Bob Taylor

Bob Taylor has been travel writer for more than three decades. Following a career as an award winning sports producer/anchor, Taylor’s media production business produced marketing presentations for Switzerland Tourism, Rail Europe, the Finnish Tourist Board, Japan Railways Group, the Swedish Travel & Tourism Council and the Swiss Travel System among others. He is founder of The Magellan Travel Club ( and his goal is to visit 100 countries or more during his lifetime.


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