Friday Prayers for Egypt: Trial, Satire

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Egypt’s tests continue. Popular talk show satirist Bassem Youssef returned to the air after a long absence and subsequently lost a lot of his popularity. Praised and hated for poking fun at President Morsi and fellow Islamists, he turned his attention to the adoration mania surrounding military leader General Sisi.

Not only did many complain, lawsuits are threatened.

Meanwhile, this week a more critical lawsuit begins. Deposed President Morsi stands trial on charges of espionage and inciting violence. Widespread protests are expected, as unlike the trial of Mubarak, Morsi maintains a significant social base. How the trial is handled may have much to say about the reality of the democratic transition.

God, help Egypt to pass these tests.

Youssef is pioneering, bringing the celebrated Egyptian humor to public expression, challenging the ingrained taboos on insulting authority. His popularity and international profile, perhaps, has kept him safe so far. Give him wisdom, God. Does he drag Egypt forward, or backwards?

He exposes hypocrisy and doublespeak, God, and this is deeply needed in Egypt, as everywhere. But he also undermines respect for authority, and this is deeply dangerous in Egypt, as everywhere.

But what if the authority does not deserve respect, having engaged in hypocrisy and doublespeak? This question, perhaps, is on trial with the president.

Validate or convict him, God, according to the truth. Just as important, may this truth be transparent. Give courage to the judge to fear you alone. May he stand strong, should pressure come from above or below. May he rule rightly.

But for those below, hold fast the discipline of their protest. Keep Morsi’s supporters peaceful; protect them from any external breach of the peace.

God, guide Egypt. Refine her culture, refine her politics, refine her dispensing of justice. In all her trials may she prove righteous.

Protect her from being an object of satire.



Jon Stewart on Morsi and Bassem Youssef

Fans of Jon Stewart probably have already seen this video, but here is a ten minute segment in which he lambasts Egypt’s president for the arrest warrant given to his friend, and clone, Bassem Youssef.

It is quite funny, and biting, as is the exchange of criticism issued by the US Embassy in Cairo, the Muslim Brotherhood’s Freedom and Justice Party, and the Office of the Presidency, which insists it has nothing to do with the suit. Have a look at Salama Moussa’s blog for a good run-down of the situation.

Check out this article also, by HA Heller, describing the international public relations nightmare Egypt has stumbled into. Arresting a comedian… It is comic in its own right, and Egyptians love their humor.