After a lengthy routine by Jon Stewart on The Daily Show about charges leveled by President Mohamed Morsi against Youssef, the U.S. Embassy in
In a reply on the official Egyptian Twitter account, Morsi’s administration stated, “It’s inappropriate for a diplomatic mission to engage in such negative political propaganda.”
Victoria Nuland, the spokeswoman for the US State Department countered the Egyptian reprimand saying that detaining Youssef, and later releasing him, is evidence of mounting restrictions on freedom of expression that is becoming a “disturbing trend” in
Nuland continued by adding, “This is something that came up when Secretary (John) Kerry was in
During his monologue, Stewart claimed that celebrities such as himself and Youssef have little power to sway public opinion and they are merely commenting upon political and socials events at any given time.
“Making fun of the president’s hats and less than fluent English? That was my entire career for eight years,” Stewart said with a split screen picture of former President George W. Bush and himself wearing cowboy hats in the background.
Stewart became more vocal when he reminded Morsi that, “Without Bassem and all those journalists, and bloggers, and brave protesters who took to Tahrir Square to voice dissent, you, President Morsi, would not be in a position to repress them. For someone who spent time in jail yourself under Mubarak, you seem awfully eager to send other people there for the same non-crimes, and just like you, they will only emerge from prison stronger and more determined.”
Youssef is not the only journalist under investigation in
Though Youssef was eventually released, he was required to pay a fine of approximately $2,200 pending investigation of the complaints against him.
There are deeper implications for the growing controversy however, and they only serve to magnify the complexity of negotiating in the
Morsi’s administration called the
Since taking control, the response by Morsi and the Muslim Brotherhood has been more indicative of an Islamic philosophy rather than a democracy, and restricting freedom of expression is a prime example.
For Obama’s role, the Egyptians are keenly aware that the American president has his own freedom of expression issues resulting primarily from his stance with Hillary Clinton regarding the terrorist attack in
Finally, the Egyptians claim the issue has more to do with Youssef insulting Islam, and some of its religious practices, more than a focus on poking fun at President Morsi.
In a statement from the Egyptian government, if such ridicule is found to be true “this contempt constitutes a grave breach of the law, customs, social and cultural constants in the Egyptian society.”
Youssef is said to be a devout Muslim who would not demean his faith in any way. He has, however, taken the hypocrisy of Muslim clerics to task.
In such an environment, it would not be difficult to stack the deck against Bassem Youssef to make the outcome favor Mohamed Morsi in whatever way he chooses.
Welcome to the maddening complexities and vagaries of dealing with Islamic reasoning and power.
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