A live political talk show on Egypt TV descended into chaos last week when one guest, a Sunni Muslim, hurled his mug and another unidentified object at the second guest, a Shiite Muslim, who had insulted his wife. The Shiite Muslim guest fled the studio to a soundtrack of smashing noises.
The debate on al-Shabab TV deteriorated into violence after the host asked his two guests — rival Muslim activists — whether Egyptian Shiites are more loyal to Egypt or to Iran. The discussion, recorded and transcribed by Memri (the Middle East Media Research Institute) quickly deteriorated first into an argument about the Shiite guest’s religious affiliation, and thence to the Sunni guest’s wife’s honor.
The Shiite activist, Mahmoud Ahmad Mahmoud, began to answer the host’s question by placing blame for Egypt’s troubles on the Wahhabi’s, a conservative sect of Sunni Islam. “There is this bunch of really stupid people, who are like a woodworm gnawing away at the Egyptian people. I’m talking about the Wahhabis,” Mahmoud said. “They are the ones who are responsible for everything – they are the ones who have driven a wedge between Muslims and Copts, and between Muslims and Muslims.”
The Sunni activist, Walid Ismail, retorted by asserting that Mahmoud’s family had disowned him because he had switched his religious affiliations from Salafi Islam to Shiite Islam. Your father “renounced you,” Ismail taunted Mahmoud.
“You’re a liar,” responded Mahmoud.
Ismail: “He did, and so did your brothers.”
Mahmoud changed tack, and insulted Ismail’s wife, declaring that “Your wife is contacting Shiites, offering to engage them in ‘pleasure marriage'” — whatever that might mean.
Ismail: “That’s inappropriate…”
Mahmoud: “Do you want me to provide recordings?”
At this point, Ismail threw something, apparently his mug, at Mahmoud, who jumped out of his chair. “Shame on you! That was below the belt! You’re being insolent,” Ismail added.
Ismail then threw a second object, which sent Mahmoud running from the set, while the moderator remonstrated with Ismail — “That’s enough” — and with the departing Mahmoud — “How dare you mention his wife?! Shame on you!”
The moderator continued to berate Mahmoud, who was now out of sight, and then, returning to his desk, barked at the camera, “Dear viewers, let’s take a short break. We’ll return shortly.”
The incident came less than two months after another Egyptian TV talk show descended into nastier violence, when a guest slapped a female TV anchor so hard that she fell over because he thought he had been tricked into appearing on an Israeli TV show. In fact, the show was a kind of Egyptian candid camera production that went wrong when more than one guest became infuriated at the thought that they were speaking to Israeli journalists.