In Egypt, satire is no laughing matter
search
Arabic media review

In Egypt, satire is no laughing matter

Ten car bombs hit Baghdad within half an hour Sunday, amid ineffective security and a fragmented political scene

Elhanan Miller is the former Arab affairs reporter for The Times of Israel

A bodyguard secures popular Egyptian television satirist Bassem Youssef, who has come to be known as Egypt's Jon Stewart, as he enters Egypt's state prosecutors office to face separate accusations of insulting Islam and the country's Islamist leader in Cairo, Egypt, on March 31, 2013 (photo credit: AP Photo/Amr Nabil, File)
A bodyguard secures popular Egyptian television satirist Bassem Youssef, who has come to be known as Egypt's Jon Stewart, as he enters Egypt's state prosecutors office to face separate accusations of insulting Islam and the country's Islamist leader in Cairo, Egypt, on March 31, 2013 (photo credit: AP Photo/Amr Nabil, File)

A spike in violence in Iraq features prominently on the front pages of Arabic newspapers on Monday, alongside coverage of a visit by UN envoy to Syria Lakhdar Brahimi to Damascus.

“Ten car bombs hit Baghdad within half an hour,” reads the headline of Saudi-owned daily A-Sharq Al-Awsat, featuring an aerial shot of cleaning workers disposing of the debris around a burnt out car in the Iraqi capital.

A spokesman for the interior ministry told the daily that Al-Qaeda is most likely behind the simultaneous attacks, adding that Iraqi security finds it difficult to protect the open spaces where attacks usually take place.

The aim of these attacks, the spokesman added, is sowing sectarian strife, a goal he said Al-Qaeda has failed to achieve.

“Iraq: The landmines of sectarianism compete with the car bombs,” reads the headline of London-based daily Al-Hayat in a particularly gloomy article featuring a photo of a house in Baghdad half-destroyed by a car bomb.

“Security men in Iraq acknowledge their inability to tackle the attacks which have been affecting the country for months. Politicians also admit their inability to agree [on a solution] to end this collapse, leaving the people to pay the price for this helplessness. The landmines of sectarianism compete with the car bombs in exploding society,” reads the article.

The deep political schism in Iraq is preventing a decisive security effort to curb terrorism, the writer asserts, claiming that Iraqi security tend to understate the number of casualties following every attack.

An example of this divide can be seen in the headline of an article in Saudi-owned news channel Elaph, quoting Iraqi politician Iyad Allawi, head of the Iraqiya bloc, as blaming Prime Minister Nouri Al-Maliki’s “floundering, unilateral” policies for the escalation in violence. Allawi called on Maliki not to pin the violence on the non-cooperation of citizens with the government.

Can an Egyptian comedian make fun of his leader?

The Egyptian TV show Al-Burnamag, the local version of “The Daily Show with Jon Stewart,” is taking heat after its host Bassem Youssef made one joke too many at the expense of defense minister and de facto Egyptian leader Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi.

“A vicious campaign in Egypt against Bassem Youssef for making fun of el-Sissi,” reads the front page headline of London-based daily Al-Quds Al-Arabi, featuring a photo of Egyptian actress Ghada Abdul Razeq, who called Youssef a “fifth column” in a tweet she posted on Sunday.

CBC, the channel that broadcasts the show, was forced to issue a statement apologizing for Youssef’s jokes at el-Sissi’s expense in his last show, which it claimed hurt the feelings of the Egyptian public. The statement also said it would continue to uphold “complete freedom of press.”

But Al-Masry Al-Youm columnist Hamdi Rizq writes on Monday that CBC’s statement amounts to a stab in Youssef’s back.

“It is a cowardly statement that has nothing to do with freedom of press, full or partial … CBC is denouncing Bassem Youssef, washing its hands of what it fears may have angered Egyptian leaders, specifically General Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi,” writes Rizq.

“CBC has thrown Bassem onto the middle of the road to be run over by random crazed vehicles driving with no breaks.”

Many Egyptians had wondered why the program — “the most popular in Egypt” — was stopped for three months, writes Dubai-based news channel Al-Arabiya on its website.

The public did not know whom Youssef would make fun of following the ouster of president Mohammed Morsi — the butt of most of his jokes — in early July. Youssef “surprised” his viewers by making fun of Egypt’s new rulers and even of the military, the channel reports.

Youssef, for his part, tweeted that “legend has it that the Egyptian people have a sense of humor and can accept satire. This is true, but only if you add ‘according to their liking.'”

For Al-Arabiya, Youssef’s show is a test case for Egypt’s new government.

“Bassem Youssef’s program is a real test for the ability of the ruling power [to accept] criticism, and whether satire shows have become a part of Egyptian culture following the revolution.” 

Join us!
A message from the Editor of Times of Israel
David Horovitz

For as little as $6 a month, you can help support our independent journalism — and enjoy special benefits and status as a Times of Israel Community member!

The Times of Israel covers one of the most complicated, and contentious, parts of the world. Determined to keep readers fully informed and enable them to form and flesh out their own opinions, The Times of Israel has gradually established itself as the leading source of independent and fair-minded journalism on Israel, the region and the Jewish world.

We've achieved this by investing ever-greater resources in our journalism while keeping all of the content on our site free.

Unlike many other news sites, we have not put up a paywall. But we would like to invite readers who can afford to do so, and for whom The Times of Israel has become important, to help support our journalism by joining The Times of Israel Community. Join now and for as little as $6 a month you can both help ensure our ongoing investment in quality journalism, and enjoy special status and benefits as a Times of Israel Community member.

Join our community
read more:
comments