The Arabist

The Arabist

By Issandr El Amrani and friends.

Posts in TV review
Egypt in TV: Highlights and low points on the talk shows

Did you know letting non-rich Egyptian kids become judges could lead them to suffer from “depression and a lot of things”?

The former minister of justice, Mahfouz Saber was there to inform you. His knowledge and concern for the psychological well-being of the poor is the reason he argued that the sons (forget daughters) of trash collectors should not join the judiciary, regardless of how academically accomplished and gifted they may be.  A judge needs to grow up in an “appropriate,” “respectable” environment, and be able to cultivate the necessary “loftiness” of judges, he told Ten TV’s Ramy Radwan. Saber's remarks ignited a media debate and led to his forced resignation. 

Prime minister Ibrahim Mehlab later told to CBC host Lamis el-Hadidi that Saber’s statement was a long slip of the tongue, and that he was actually the son of a peasant, who was lucky to continue his education. Saber then came out to say that it was not a tongue slip after all and that he stood by what he said.

“(I said that) to placate the people,” Saber all but muttered to el-Mehwar’s Mohamed Sherdy. Luckily, the poor were too busy being socially immobile to pay much attention to this back-and-forth. 

OnTV’s Ibrahim Eissa found it amusing that the sad little public didn’t know that the minister of justice has no say in the appointment of judges. It is the State Council’s job, and they should be focused on the alleged attempted assassination of a judge working on MB cases -- presumably by the MB --- rather than on the overt scorn the head of the entire judiciary just poured over the population.

Saber’s statement brought out an interesting and new side to Rola Kharsa, the TV presenter who frequently criticized the MB for “mixing religion with politics.”

“If you go back to religion ,I can simply tell you: If God willed, He would have made you a single people,” Kharsa said without further explanation, prompting one to assume that Kharsa thinks God has created people different -- and unequal, given the context -- and wants to keep it this way. This is funny because this verse (which is no. 48 from chapter 5, Surah al-Maidah) has nothing to do with social class. It is about religion and how Allah wanted to create diversity in beliefs to test humanity.

But Kharsa said that even if many might agree with the minister, it is not right for a government official to speak this way, and that individuals should be judged on their merits. 

Also mixing religion with politics this week was Rotana Masirya’s Tamer Ameen, who said that since we elected president Abdel Fattah el-Sisi to run the country for us while we “sit at ahwas, smoke lots of shisha, go out a lot and don’t work a lot” rather than collectively run the country ourselves, we are religiously mandated to support him according to this Hadith: “Support your brother, whether oppressor or oppressed,” meaning when he is right back him up and when he is wrong correct him, which is another form of support -- one I don’t remember Ameen preaching for former president Mohamed Morsi, who was also elected. What’s more amusing than that is that Ameen is talking religion on Rotana of all channels. (Rotana sponsors music and broadcasts movies often laden with sexual innuendo.)

Refusing to be the only official not making classist generalizations this week, Minister of Urban Development and Slum Areas Laila Iskandar came out to blame (poor) Upper Egyptians for Egypt’s informal housing problem, as opposed to the government. She later said that she, too, is from Upper Egypt and deeply cares for the people there.

While the government told the poor to dream small, ElHayah TV’s Ahmed el-Meslamani advised the government to adopt China’s Internet censorship policy, just like he thinks France will do. The French interior minister, el-Meslamani claimed -- despite knowledge that Google is not blocked in Egypt -- said that 90 percent of terrorists today were radicalized on social media, making Facebook and Twitter the new nuclear bomb. What actually happened is that the French minister visited Facebook, Twitter, Microsoft and Google to ask for direct cooperation with the French government. He did not give any statistics or compare these websites to weapons of mass destruction.

Sharing el-Meslamani’s disrespect for Google, Al Kahera Wal Nas’s Amany el-Khayat aired an amazing reportage about April 6 to warn Gulf states of the imaginary spread of the once-influential student protest movement, whose leader, Ahmad Maher, is in jail.

The report starts with a series of superimposed edited logos of April 6, claiming it has branches all over the world and that it is related to “Zionist Christianity, which is heralding the nearness of the apocalypse and seeks to establish The Structure.” The leading US Republicans controlling this branch of Christianity include  George W. Bush and Condoleezza Rice.They chose to name the movement after the month of April, because of Passover, the regrettable day when Jews were freed from Ancient Egyptian slavery (which explains why they are targeting Egypt now). The number 6 was chosen because it is apparently important to Jews and probably because of the 2006 film The Omen, in which the spawn of Satan had the numbers 666 as a birthmark on his head to prove he was the spawn of Satan. The bottom line is that the “6” and the “April” in April 6 links it to Judaism which links it to Free Masonry. 

Meanwhile in the world of reasonable adults, the beloved political analyst and former member of parliament Amr Hamzawy kind of sold out. Hamzawy gave Khairy Ramadan a mercilessly long interview earlier this month that was so boring, one almost missed/no longer cared about his selling out. Hamzawy was one of the few liberals to publicly say that July 3 was a coup, but that was before he made his “revisions.” He fell silent when Khairy said the following: “Amr Hamzawy is not saying now that July 3 is a coup. Amr Hamzawy admits that the president of the republic Abdel Fatah el-Sisi was democratically elected.”


Hamzawy is also no longer wishes to bring down the regime. He wants to reform it from the inside and he regrets his support for the law which banned former members of the Mubarak’s dissolved ruling National Democratic Party from contesting elections.

Recent weeks have seen something of a Mubarak come-back tour, with the president and his sons being covered and quoted in the media. “Who is the first one to admit to the mistakes that we lived through in the past 30 years?”  asked Mahmoud Saad. “Mubarak,” he answered. He is the one who removed his son, Gamal Mubarak, and notoriously corrupt NDP members like Ahmed Ezz and Safwat el-Sherief from power (admittedly after putting them in power in the first place). Mubarak’s only fault was letting his son and wife rule with him, said Saad (who also at one point asked someone off camera if he was being polite enough about the former ruling family). So what is the point of this walk down Saad’s edited memory lane? It is to say that the wife and son did a poor job and that el-Sisi now is trying to save what Mubarak couldn’t. 

The only thing stranger than Saad’s logic was Wael el-Ibrashy’s awkward recent interview with Ahmed Fouad, the last king of Egypt and the son of King Farouk, in which el-Ibrashy kept asking his docile guest to tell us in his accented Arabic how much he approves of July 3 (which is arguably in bad taste, since his father was deposed by the military too) and how grateful he is to el-Sisi for giving him a diplomatic passport that says “Former King of Egypt” under occupation.

Egypt in TV: Sisi's UN speech, Bassem Youssef's bad manners, a women's coup

What's been on the small screen in Egypt lately, from our TV correspondent Nour Youssef. 

Egypt’s talk show hosts may have always been unethical and unprofessional, but they have never been quite this childish. It is hard to watch Ahmed Moussa giggle whenever his guests call the Qatari royal family and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan names (for their support of the Muslim Brotherhood), and not think of my fourth grade arch enemy, Khaled Picksnosealot.

Last month there were five on-air fights (followed by numerous opportunities for the analysis and re-iteration of insults). One of the fights ended with business tycoon Naguib Sawiris comparing Al Kahera Wal Nas’s Abdelrahim Ali (who has become infamous lately for playing private telephone conversations of activists, undoubtedly leaked to him by the security services)  to "an annoying fly that gets into the mouths of others."  Another was started by the unknown founders of a failed Tamarod-like movement who complained about not getting a share of the praise for toppling president Mohamed Morsi in a seventh grade history book.

“(Mohamed Hassanein) Heikal is the one who made the theory that has held us back all this time!” announced Tamer Amin, who’s had enough of the reverence that the veteran political analyst and historian enjoys in the media. According to Amin, Heikal is guilty of giving the same advice to every Egyptian president: To put only those he can trust, and not those who are competent, in positions of leadership -- advice they all followed religiously, thus holding the country back. It is time to move on to younger thinkers, Amin says. Especially since “most of (Heikal)’s ’judgements and his political prophecies in the past years were wrong.” He ended this virtually unprecedented attack with a reminder that there are over 90 million Egyptians -- surely one of them can fill Heikal's shoes.

The strangest fight so far, however, was between satirist Bassem Youssef (who went into a forced retirement earlier this year when Egypt's "democratic transition" gave him more freedom of expression than he could handle) and AlQahera AlYoum’s Khaled Abu Bakr in New York. According to the latter’s side of the story (which is the whole story as far as the media is concerned), an unprovoked Youssef walked up to him to grudgingly say hello and then came back a moment later screaming obscenities and complaints about not being able to cycle on the Suez road unlike President Abdelfatah el-Sisi, whom he accused Abu Bakr and his colleagues of shamelessly shilling for. Youssef said all this in full view of women and impressionable children, every talk show from Tamer Amin to Osama Mounir took care to note. Even Mortada Mansour – a lawyer who has made a career of picking fights with public figures and threatening to publish the details of their affairs -- gasped at the idea of a man cursing in front of his wife, or worse yet, cursing the people of Egypt. (Anyone who has been to Egypt knows that the people of Egypt curse the people of Egypt all the time.)

The endless reprimands to “The Boy” (Youssef’s new derogatory nickname) included suggestions of emigration and of revoking of his citizenship; a photo-shopped picture of him as a rabbi from Moussa and a monologue from Mounir about how Youssef will never be back on TV because Sisi is a “decent” man who won’t stand by as Youssef expands the vocabulary of innocent Egyptian women, making them prone to lewd behavior and talking back.

This current talk show obsession with manners is an embarrassingly obvious attempt to tap into the viewers’ sense of traditional masculinity, according to which no "decent" man would distress a woman by spoiling her delicate wafer-like ears with profanities, and to shame “impolite” (and thus amoral and thus unpatriotic) political opponents.

That being said, the Best Fight Award goes to Egyptian Nobel laureate Ahmed Zewail and Adel Hamouda. It all started when the former naively referred to Morsi as a scientist (Morsi is an engineer with a PhD from the University of Southern California) and was not cowed by his disgusted interviewer, Lamis el-Hadidi’s, murderous looks.

 “Ahmed Zewail needs to go to a psychiatrist,” Hamouda declared. “Zewail has changed.” According to Hamouda’s understanding of medicine, when a person survives a health crisis (which Zewail recently has) the ensuing anxiety  causes changes in said person’s level of patriotism and ability to identify people by profession. Shockingly, when Hamouda met Zewail after the episode, the good-for-nothing chemist failed to accept his televised diagnosis.

Every local talk show host would also have us believe that the world is still reeling from the greatness of el-Sisi’s speech to the United Nations. Back home Ibrahim Eissa painfully parsed the president’s speech, noting his use of “modest” sentences like "the people realize and I realize," which highlighted his subliminal respect for the individuality of the nation. "See how the realization of the Egyptian people (differs) from his realization...he is the echo of the people...his realization is based on the realization of the people...he didn’t even self-inflate and refer to himself in plural!”  

Human Rights Watch's Kenneth Roth, who dared to Tweet that Sisi did not in fact receive a standing ovation, was indignantly attacked by the Egyptian media and Twittersphere.

Eissa continues to spearhead a campaign against what is left of Egypt's Islamist movement, although the remaining parties, like the Salafis, publicly sided with Sisi against the Muslim Brotherhood. But Eissa thinks allowing the 11 Islamist parties to continue to exist in Egypt is a crime against itself and its constitution, which bans any political parties based on religion. This prompted the head of the Salafi Al-Nour Party to call Wael el-Ibrashy and explain that his party is a lot like the constitution he helped write: they both use Islam as reference point, which in his world is not the same thing as being “based on religion.” That three-word sentence means that a party’s membership would exclude followers of other religions and that the party would monopolize religious rhetoric, he says.

Amr Adeeb lectured men about how important it is to continue to throw one's pants on the floor and not do one's dishes, to prevent "a coup" by women around the world (I wonder why he has coups on his mind?) Good thing we got rid of those misogynist Islamists. 


 Adeeb also opened his TV set to self-styled oracle Tawfik Okasha, who has  temporarily lost his own show to what he calls “corruption in advertising.” Okasha came on to remind the viewers that those who don’t believe the conspiracies he and his colleagues tell them don’t believe in God, since the devil is at the heart of the global conspiracy against Arabs and Muslims. He also wanted to be the first to say that Egypt will have a parliament in less than two months and that it will invade Libya in 6 months to fight the Islamists there.

Meanwhile Amany el-Khayat argued that Daesh (the organization now known as the (un) Islamic State)  “is a Western creation because it is an acronym and Arabs don’t do acronyms!” Wael el-Ibrashy showed two kids eat raw chicken on TV and Gaber el-Karmouty acted out how he tried and failed to pee in a public urinal, because journalism.

Egypt in TV: Mubarak was a nice guy, Rabaa was inevitable

Another entry in our Egypt in TV series from our correspondent Nour Youssef

Recently, a college-educated friend asked me to explain how 9/11 could not be a Zionist conspiracy when all the Jewish employees of the World Trade Center were told to take the day of the attack off. This was a sincere question. And a sad reminder of how easily a ludicrous lie can be instilled in a mind (with IQ points and access to the Internet) when repeated enough times. 

Following the broadcasting of the Mubarak trial, there has been a perceptible increase in the frequency and temerity of such lies in the Egyptian media. It is not enough to believe Mubarak is innocent and that the Muslims Brothers and the West are the source of all evil. One must wish to kiss the sand beneath his hospital bed because under his leadership, Egypt was the best it could have possibly been -- considering that he was busy battling The Source this whole time without telling us, so as not to worry us. The same way he opted for selflessly falling and breaking a leg in the bathroom instead of waking up his nurse to help him limp to it, according to Al-Faraeen’s Tawfik Okasha, who wonders how we don't feel shame allowing the trial of this gentle soul to go on -- a dangerous rhetorical question since it implies the judiciary is conducting a farcical trial that could be stopped if enough people wanted it to.

"But why air the trial now?" CBC's Khairy Ramadan asked. Are they trying to elicit sympathy for Mubarak or agitate people? Are they going to air MB trials too? Ramadan continued to skirt the obvious reason, which is that people were angrier before and would have made a fuss seeing the judge go out of his way to accommodate the Mubaraks and offer to move the trial to anywhere they like to allow their father to defend himself outside the usual defendant’s cage, and profess his personal desire "to give them back their freedom” if only for a few moments.

Ramadan went on to echo some of the Al-Nahar TV’s Mahmoud Saad’s questions: Why did ex Interior Minister Habib el-Adly fail to stop Jan 25 if he knew that the MB and April 6 “were taking courses on how to revolt in Doha paid for the by US” (where they must have learned how to stand in a crowd and cry when teargassed, etc)? If it was a conspiracy, does that mean every person that stood in Tahrir was a conspirator/a typical nosy Egyptian who likes to see things for themselves (Adly’s contention) or could life under Mubarak have been so bad that people seized the opportunity to topple him immediately? Also, if Mohamed ElBaradei was a spy, why did former head of military intelligence, Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, let him become Vice President in the summer of 2013? And if there is information proving that Jan 25 was a conspiracy, hasn’t anyone shown it to Sisi so he can stop embarrassing himself and quit calling it a revolution? (And why did the former Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces, Field Marshal Tantawi side with and glorify this abomination?)

These questions are a sign of some division among propagandists. Others signs include Saad waging war on the long boring monologues that are the backbone of Egyptian nighttime television; Tamer Ameen accusing his colleagues of overreacting to news and fear-mongering to fill airtime and Hassan Rateb, head of el--Mehwar TV, complaining about the lack of coordination and synchronization in the media, which has been too unkind to the Mubaraks for his taste. It seems moderate hosts like Saad and Ramadan just want a little more coherence in the official narrative, whereas hardliners like Ahmed Mousa and Okasha want to bang a drum all day. Others like OnTV’s Youssef el-Husseiny, who fancies himself a revolutionary, simply want everyone to cherry pick the same “facts” he does. In Husseiny’s world, fighters from rival Palestinian factions Fatah and Hamas put aside their difference to sneak into Egypt through tunnels, cross the entirety of the Sinai Peninsula, spread across the nation attacking police stations and freeing prisoners, and then make their way back to Gaza completely undetected in 2011. Nevertheless -- this is where el-Husseiny parts with the becoming-official narrative -- that does not make Jan 25 a US conspiracy because the fighters idling on the borders only piggy-backed on a very real revolution.

That being said, the worst coverage of the Mubarak trial was that of weather vane media personality Ibrahim Eissa, who wondered why people who are angered by the Mubarak trial don’t just switch the channel and accused Jan 25 supporters of being hypocritical because they were incensed by el-Adly’s accusations of treason, even though they, too, accuse the Mubarak regime of betraying the people. The revolutionaries’ anger, Eissa decided, is a classic  case of “can dish it out, but can’t take it.” This from a man who once wrote scathing condemnations of the Mubarak regime. 

The trial itself reveals two interesting things. The first is that Mubarak’s smiley attorney, Farid el-Deeb, is not as good as he is is meant to be, says journalist Abdel-Halim Qandil. In his opening statement, el-Deeb spent more time talking about how fond Egyptians are of the word “revolution,” and the many times in which they have misused the term in recent history, than about the the charges facing his client. The trial has also revealed that Ahmed Mousa can smile. Unlike Qandil, the Sada el-Balad host was very impressed with el-Deeb's opening statement and how it cited exciting "official documents that he didn't get from his brain, home or the moon." These documents and statements, he beamed, are from irreproachable former officials like Tantawi, and Head of Intelligence, Gen. Omar Suleiman from the Mubarak regime exonerating the Mubarak regime. To Mousa, the matter is settled. These statements come from “the people who used to run the country...they people who held the keys to everything” and they say there was no corruption -- who can say anything otherwise? Naturally, the only credible source of information about the Mubarak regime is the Mubarak regime itself.

El-Adly’s statement, on the other hand, was an unsurprising rerun of everything the media has been saying for the past 3 and a half years (Hamas this, Amerika that), with the addition of two gems. The first (featured above) was his resentful account of an alleged conversation with former US ambassador, Anne Patterson, when she called him to complain about the Internet shutdown and how the embassy couldn’t work due to it -- which he found irritating because it’s not like the representative of the world’s superpower needs Egypt’s lowly Internet when “she could find out what (he) is wearing today, if she wanted it to.” “But that was before it was announced that she was the head of the conspiracy,” he concluded with a smile. The second gem is his claim that the Egyptian police just so happens to have  given the Gaza police weapons from its own inventory before the revolution, which should answer any lingering questions about why Egyptian police ammunition was found in the bodies of protesters. 

What should have been the topic du jour of the week was the Rab’a massacre's uneventful first year anniversary. Virtually no video footage or photographs were shown of the bloodshed. The Human Rights Watch report on Rab’a was dismissed for not taking the official narrative and local  NGO reports seriously enough, as well as taking the bloodshed out of context (the context basically being "they started it/deserved it"), journalist Abdullah el-Sinawy told OnTV’s Yosri Fouda -- the only TV host who dedicated an entire episode for the anniversary. Meanwhile, others like Ramadan and Saad  murmured variations of "What Happened, Happened."

Others, like former-MB-turned-TV-talking head, Abdelsatar el-Meligy, were less kind. “Rab’a was occupied and the police cleared it so cars could pass. It’s really not complicated,” he said, matter-of-factly. Mousa went on about how the shoes of non-Muslim Brotherhood Egyptians are better than Morsi, his son and all his supporters and urged his viewers not to forget the 64 police officers who died last August while killing 1000+ people. 

(PS: If you are having a hard time falling in love with Mubarak, the following story, according to writer and person known primarily for being married to actor Yahya el-Fakharani, Lamis Gaber, should help: Shortly before Israel launched its surprise attack on the Egyptian Air Force in the 1967 war, Mubarak reportedly thought to himself: “Pilots gets worse without practice.” So he took three other pilots and flew. While in the air, they received the news and were told that the only airport they could land in was Luxor’s. Once they landed there, the airport was attacked and their planes were destroyed, forcing him to heroically take the train back to Cairo. The End)

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.)

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Last week in Egypt in TV

A new occasional feature from our contributor Nour Youssef, who watches a lot of TV.

Earlier this week on Al-Nahar TV, political activist Ahmed Harara, who lost his vision to police rubber bullets in protests, became perhaps the first non-Islamist to openly attack Gen. Abdel Fattah el-Sisi and the military.

After making Mahmoud Saad read the names and ages of all those who died in the Mohamed Mahmoud clashes, he briefly explained to Saad why El-Sisi's army is no different from Tantawi’s. First, el-Sisi was a member of the hated Field Marshal Tantawi’s Supreme Council of the Armed Forces that injured and killed protesters -- he justified the virginity tests and had Tantawi seated next to him in the Oct. 6 celebration last month.

Calmly, Harara moved on to note the militarization of the state, mentioning the general secretary of the cabinet who is an army general and the 17 new governors as an example. Even the police general, Samy Sedhom -- the man who called in on Al-hayah TV to clarify that the police forces in Mohamed Mahmoud only had plastic shields to injure the outlaws posing as activists, and conveniently lost phone reception when asked to explain the number of eye injuries that occurred -- is now the deputy governor of Sharqiya. (It is worth noting that his retirement age was reportedly  extended and he was promoted to head the Supreme Council of the Police under Morsi.)

“[The military and the police] who still arrest and torture people till now...they are going to make the memorial service for the people they killed?” Harara asked. “Do they want to provoke us so we would go down to the streets for them to kill us?”

By far, the most interesting bit of the interview was when Harara asked a silent Saad how drugs and weapons are smuggled into Egypt when the strong army is standing there supposedly protecting them. Saad then asked him what he thought of the war in Sinai, to which he said he owes the army nothing, since it is their job to fight terrorism, and that in order to evaluate their performance there Saad should go to Sinai and asks the people there.

(Harara did say that the MB was a terrorist group and that 30 million took to the streets on June 30. I will forgive the latter because of his eye condition, but we seriously need to agree on a definition of the word terrorist.)

On el-Mehwar, talkshow host Reham al-Sahl told us that when people denounce religion and ask for their rights in the constitution, we must stop and talk about it.

By talk, she meant get an atheist and demand to know why he is an atheist -- Could it be because he has psychological problems? Financial problems? Was he given bad interpretations of the Quran? Was it the bad MB sheikhs? Where are his parents? It's the psychological problems, just admit it. 

Ismail Mohamed, the atheist, came on the show to explain what he wants from the constitutional committee, which is to respect minority rights and decriminalize talking about atheism outside one's home. Instead, he got an interviewer who said astaghfir allah (i.e I seek forgiveness from Allah) out loud every single time he said something contradictory to Islam because she doesn't have an inner voice, apparently. 

In addition to the host's scorn, Mohamed received angry phone calls from viewers reminding him that it is illegal for him to talk about atheism and "cause strife" in society. An Al Azhar theologian pointed out that talking about not being a Muslim implies that something is not right in Islam and t amounts to defaming religion -- a crime according to article 98 of the penal code.

There was one call from his own mother who blamed the combutar for his condition and said his siblings were too upset to look at the TV right now.

At one point, el-Sahly asked him why he was being nice to his mother at all since bir al-walidyan (kindness to parents) is a Muslim concept entirely alien to 5.4 billion non-Muslim humans on the planet. She later called a psychiatrist to tell him about this case of a young man who doesn't believe in God and when asked why, says he is free to believe whatever he wants.

Then a viewer called to praise the TV host for her intelligence in detecting the implicit link between the atheist and the Muslim Brotherhood, who obviously recruited him to become living evidence of the secularization of the country and prove that the ouster of Morsi and the crackdown on his supporters is, indeed, a war on Islam. That was just one of the many people who accused Mohammed of being a foreign cell, or at least part of one. When he apologized to his friends for being unable to speak and present their point of view, el-Sahly asked if they were inside or outside of Egypt. Where all the Jews are.

Alternating between glancing sideways and silence, the theologian, Dr. Badr Zaki, spoke to announce the refutation of the theory of evolution by, you know, "all of the people who work in the sciences of embryology and humanities," with the confidence of one who thinks no one will google what he says.

(Just for the record, evolution is mentioned, just like Mohamed pointed out, in schools here, but in stride. Universities are not exactly crawling with the Dawkinses and Gervaises of Egypt. Professors almost always introduce the subject as an obsolete, wrong theory, misrepresent it and then conclude with things like: Why are monkeys still around if we came from them?)

Another dead atheist-theory, Dr. Zaki enlightened us, is psychoanalysis by Sigmund Freud, who like Charles Darwin was an ex-Jew, as is everyone who makes up such theories.

In the end, el-Sahly essentially kicked Mohamed off her show (he said he was going to withdraw from the discussion, or their idea of it, but wanted to say a last word and she refused) and was criticized by a judge on the phone for irresponsibly spreading his ideas by giving him precious airtime.

"We are not spreading his (way of) thought. We reject his (way of) thought. And I think this was obvious from the beginning of the episode," she defended herself. And rightly so.

The reaction that sums it up best for me was my neighbor's: "The kid (Mohamed) said there is a book that says God is dead! May God burn his house the way he burned his mother's heart. Did you hear her cry?" (She didn't.) "Reham was good though. She's got a pretty face" (She doesn't.)

Meantime in sports, el-Ahly’s football star, Mohamed Abu Terka, and his teammate, Ahmed Abdel-Zaher, are still under attack. The former for failing to accept his medal from the current sports minister, which people took as a rejection of the government the minister is part of, and the latter for flashing the Raba’a sign in a match. Abdel-Zaher said he only did in solidarity with the martyrs and not as a political statement, but he got suspended for fourth months (and may be traded away) nonetheless. Much like Kung Fu Mohamed Ramadan who was banned from playing after wearing a t-shirt with the Raba’a sign on it.  Abu Treka, on the other hand,  was reportedly fined 50 thousand pounds although the exact reason why he wasn't on stage is unknown. Ibrahim el-Manisy, editor of al-Ahly Magazine, says he was not on stage because he went back to the locker room to get a shirt that had the number 72  to honor the Port Said martyrs.  

It is worth noting that sports clubs don't have actual written laws regulating political statements or promotion during games (because it never happened before) and that these punishments are arbitrary, according to the minister of sports.

However, to avoid future confusion, the Daqahlia board of referees suggested never giving 4 minutes over-time in a soccer match because then they would have to do the four-finger sign and it might be mistaken for condemnation of a massacre. Instead, referees can just give 3, 5 or any other less potentially controversial number of minutes. If it is absolutely necessary to give 4 minutes, it is  presumably acceptable to make two victory signs -- or a three-finger sign with one hand and a one-finger with the other (provided it is not a middle finger, lest that should be misconstrued as an objection to the new sign rule) -- and the players could just do the math. And in the lucky event that players are within earshot, a referee could always just flash a five-finger sign and shout "Subtract one."