Last week in Egypt in TV

A semi-regular features from our contributor Nour Youssef, who watches a lot of TV.

It is now generally inadvisable to involve religion in politics in Egypt, unless you limit it to condemning involving religion in politics. This is especially true if you are just looking for a hadith that recommends the murder of your political opponents.

But ONtv presenter Youssef el-Husseiny has too much testosterone to care. Earlier this week, in an effort to see how much the Brothers like Sharia now, Husseiny told us a story about the Prophet and the Jews of Banu Nadir and Banu Qaynuqa, which he argued gives the authorities the religious right to kill all Brothers that hit puberty.

Those Jews, Husseiny tells us, used to gloat over the misfortunes of the Muslims (just like the MB celebrated their fellow Egyptian Muslims' embarrassing football defeat) and broke the medina charter by collaborating with Quraysh, if only in spirit, against the Muslims in their unsuccessful siege of el-Medina during the Battle of the Trench. After the Muslims won, the Prophet, he says, asked his wounded companion Sa’d ibn Mo’ez what to do with the treacherous Jews, and Sa’d suggested the mass murder of all the post-pubescent males of the said tribes, or at least everyone capable of fighting. Given that it was a time of war, the Prophet followed Sa’d’s advice.

Moral of the story is: The Brothers are like the Jews of Nadir, we are in a time of war and they want Sharia, right? [Smile] They do realize Sharia would see them killed? Perhaps they want to disagree with Sharia and -- God forbid -- claim to know better than Sa’d, the Prophet [pause and smile some more] and Allah!

Never mind the fact that the story Husseiny is trying to refer to here is that of Banu Qurazya (Banu Qaynuqa and Banu Nadir were expelled for non-Quraysh-related reasons), and let that not reflect on his intimate knowledge of Islamic history and his ability to issue fatwas based on it for politically convenient purposes. More importantly, Husseiny wants you to know he is not seriously advocating the activation of his religion’s laws. He is merely invoking them to scare people and tell the government to man up.

Another TV presenter making helpful suggestions for the government this week is Amr Adeeb, who came to educate us on the three schools of counterterrorism, one of which the government must subscribe to now.

The first school is Iranian and it follows an “eye for an eye” strategy. Following it means the government must kill some of its MB prisoners whenever an attack occurs. The number of prisoners to be killed should equal the number of lives lost in the attack, of course. Another option, is the Israeli school, which means the government would have to kill whoever planned the attack no matter how long it took (Munich-style). And then there is the American school, which says to flatten the country to whom the terrorists belong --- a suggestion that raises doubts about Adeeb’s patriotism.

While Adeeb was trying to predict how long Egypt's war on terror will last (a minimum of 3 to 5 years, if you're wondering), his wife, Lamis el-Hadidi was hammering the last nail in the MB’s coffin, thanks to the discovery by the have-no-bone-to-pick-with-Hamas Egypt’s Representative Office in Ramallah and the Egyptian Interior Ministry that the Jan 25 pseudo-revolution was actually a Hamas conspiracy to bring the Brotherhood to power. The Ramallah office allegedly detected smuggling of weapons and some food to Egypt during the 18 days in 2011. This is just a fuzzy scan of letters allegedly sent from one government body to another that just so happens to parrot official rhetoric. The only thing shocking, or rather confusing, about this discovery and the “Jan. 25 is a hoax” rhetoric it supports is that it is gaining popularity at the same time the “June 30 revolution is an extension of Jan. 25” talk is still alive and well.

Soon after that, the protest law came out and talk shows scrambled to justify it. Adeeb, for instance, deflected and decided to air the Qatari protest law to annoy Qatari Al Jazeera, which didn’t like Egypt’s law. This also served to mollify people about the law, in a the-grass-is-brown-and-patchy on the other side kind of way. Khairy Ramadan, on the other hand, got a video of a North Korean police rehearsal of a protest dispersal to drool over. If you find pro-regime Khairy comparing Egypt’s police force to North Korea’s perplexing, do note that he did so with envy and no sense of irony. 

Wanting to get a different point of view, Rola Kharsa got an April 6th member to read offensive viewer messages out-loud to whenever she ran out of angry phone calls.

On the other hand, giving me hope in television this week is Mahmoud Saad, who asked some basic questions like: Why did Tamarod’s Mahmoud Badr “sense embarrassment” and abstain from voting on the constitutional article that allows the military trials of civilians? Why do people not wearing uniforms arrest protesters when police officers are there? If they are police, where are their uniforms? Why do you slap someone who is in your custody and is not resisting? And while we’re on that, why sexually abuse them? Also, why assault people indiscriminately when they come out of the police van? And why dump the people you release on a desert road rather than just let them go? If the police didn’t kill the two that denied in the Mahmoud Memorial Clashes III, but was obviously there in large numbers; how come the shooter got away?

Prime Minister Hazem el-Beblawi stirred some controversy of his own after he apologetically explained why he can’t issue an official order to label the MB as a terrorist group:  Egypt lacks the legal text that properly defines what a terrorist group is. Also, he has no authority to do so since he is not a court, and it is just pointless. Terrorism is a crime, he said, if someone commits it you can press charges, they will be “investigated” and then found guilty by a court -- which would have been all well and patriotic, if he had not added this rhetorical question: “So what, am I supposed to jail anyone who was in the MB?”

Later, he had to call an upset Wael al-Ibrashi and reassure him that he can still call the MB a terrorist group despite the lack of evidence, because he personally thinks they are too. He just meant to say the government can’t go around calling people terrorists or thieves, that’s the Interior Ministry and judiciary’s job.

Despite fierce competition with Kharsa’s hairline, the most irritating TV thing for me was on military-worshipping el-Mehwar, whose Ahmed el-Sha’r pretended to be shocked to learn that ElBaradei, April 6th and all critics of the military are undercover, fifth columnists (i.e. Brothers i.e. terrorists) from a grumpy Lamis Gabr, an analyst and close cousin of Brain from Pinky and the Brain.

For those unfamiliar with Mehwar's longstanding editorial policy: watch confessions of a 2011 Tahrir protester (sample: “Freedam House gave every current leadar 50 USD” to train people to burn shops and the NDP headquarters) and confessions of a 2013 Raba’a protester (sample: “He agreed to give us 200 pounds," says protester.)