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The Arabist

By Issandr El Amrani and friends.

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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)

Egypt in TV

Sometimes when one does not get enough attention, one is pushed to strange things to get it. This is presumably what motivated Gaber el-Karmouty to give up thirteen minutes of his talk show to play the national anthems of all the Egyptian-regime-friendly Arab states while sporting a dishdasha (complete with a shemagh,a keffiyeh and the Egyptian flag one on top of the other at minute 11) and holding up the flags of said countries, except for Jordan’s. "(They) tried to send someone to the Jordanian embassy to get a big flag but failed." Hence, the print out.

The purpose of this abuse of symbolism, el-Karmouty tells us, is to thank Gulf states for their support of the July 3 coup and take the opportunity to contrast that with Qatar’s pro-MB stance and ask their royal family about the origins of their malevolence towards Egypt -- something he has done virtually every day since July 3, but suddenly requires a costume and flags to do.

That was not the last time el-Karmouty did something strange for no good reason. Earlier last week, he rode a bicycle around his cramped studio on air to demonstrate to his viewers how General AbdelFatah el-Sisi’s rode his in last Friday’s cycling marathon. When not ringing the bike bell, el-Karmouty pointed out his helmet, his backpack, his bottle cage and listed various presidents who rode bicycles in public before.

The weirdest presentation el-Karmouty has given so far, however, was reenacting the latest group sexual assault in Tahrir via standing up, occasionally hiding his crotch and drawing circles in the air to show where her attackers stood surrounding her. Next to el-Karmouty, on the desk, was a bouquet of red roses identical to the ones el-Sisi gave the victim during his televised hospital visit because apparently that too required illustration.

The Tahrir rape has inspired more explanations from other TV presenters. By explanations I mean conspiracy theories, of course. The Muslim Brotherhood did it to spread terror in society and punish women for voting for Sisi. Could that be why the pro-MB Rassd network had the best footage of the assault, OnTV’s Youssef el-Husseiny encouraged us to wonder. The Stepford Wives of Egyptian TV, Hala Sarhan, Lamis el-Hadidi and Ahmed Moussa, however, were even less subtle than him.  

Sarhan reported that one of the assailants called the victim’s daughter an infidel and put out a cigarette in her face (after she was in police custody, I might add), according to the victim’s friend, Soha Hosny, who was at the scene. The victim Ahmed Moussa interviewed, Rania Abdel-Nasser, also said her attackers referred to her as a Sisi supporter and said they would show her. This was taken as proof of an MB conspiracy. 

But it does not necessarily mean these attacks are politically motivated. My sister was sexually assaulted earlier this week by a group of men in the virtually empty streets of New Cairo; one of her attackers stopped to recall out loud how el-Sisi said recently that men who so much as let their eyes linger too long on a woman will be arrested, and to wonder what he was doing to do about it now. Surely, that does not mean that Khairat el-Shater is plotting away in prison to orchestrate random sexual assaults on women in New Cairo. Could the Tahrir attacks have been organized? Yes. But could they also be the natural result of a sexual harassment problem that has gotten worse and has never been seriously addressed? Yes.

It is worth noting that the other Tahrir victim, Hosny, told el-Hadidi in a separate interview that the Presumed Brother later said that he only extinguished his cigarette with a girl's face because he was under the impression they were beating up a Muslim Sister, not a fellow Sisi supporter. It's all just a misunderstanding. Anyway, who hasn’t burned the face of someone they mistook for a demonized political opponent?

Something else, Amany el-Khayat and all other TV presenters didn’t appreciate last week were the flyers that now dot Cairo asking people: Have you prayed for the Prophet today? They all believe it as a sign that the MB is gearing up for the parliamentary elections and is trying to win people over with religious slogans again. Ibrahim Eissa likened the flyers to an annoying chain mail asking you to pray 70 times or become one of the 3% who go to hell. Eissa then put his microphone up to the camera for the viewers to defy physics and tell him what to do if Christians start putting up flyers of their own (hence igniting a sectarian flyer-war). 

On the other hand, Ahmed Moussa shared a video of uniformed Caucasian people stripping and restraining a woman as evidence of the US police's disregard for human rights, while Hala Sarhan, Lamis el-Hadidi and Amr Adeeb used comparisons between Morsi and his successor to fill air time with comic relief. Morsi used to eat on the floor in the presidential places and wipe his hands clean on the curtains and the furniture with his friends like the savages they were, according to Sarhan. El-Sisi probably uses cutlery and napkins. Morsi touched his crotch on TV. El-Sisi didn’t. Morsi gave notoriously boring speeches and said the word ‘legitimacy’ 58 times in one of them. El-Sisi gave – well, he didn’t say the word ‘legitimacy’ 58 times. One time Morsi had a security detail that consisted of 36 cars – Adeeb counted – as opposed to the handful of bodyguards el-Sisi had with him in his cycling marathon. Though one could argue that all the participants in the marathon count as bodyguards given that they are students from the military and police academies. 

Meanwhile in the MB camp, Al Jazeera’s Ayman Azzam butchered a stolen Bassem Youssef joke – the one where he begins a swear word and ends with a regular one, eg: "Ayman Azzam’s mother is a whor...rible painter". And aired this very, very weird song (45:17).

PostsNour Youssefegypt, tv
Last week in Egypt in TV

This is a sporadic column by Arabist contributor Nour Youssef. 

Lately, a rekindled hate for repetition has prevented me from watching television and not fighting with taxi drivers. Little has changed in the media scene since July 3. The West, led by the US, the Ottomans and the matchbox that is Qatar, is still intimidated by Egypt's potential for greatness and so it continues to plague it with corruption, poverty and injustice, giving the protesters it pays to paralyze traffic something to chant about. Only thing that has changed is that the narrative is no longer funny.

Even Tawfik Okasha is sick of repeating it. The owner of the Faraeen channel gave his viewers an ultimatum: if they don't join him on April 11 in al-Abbasiya Square to -- well, he hasn't really specified what, but he knows that if the population doesn't show up, the terrorists win, and he will quit the whole nationalism thing and punish them with BBC-like uncaring professionalism because it is not worth it anymore. It's worth noting that Okasha's good friend, lawyer Mortada Mansour -- the man who has cursed and slandered more people on air than Okasha himself -- is running for president.

It may come as a shock, but Okasha is not the only TV host in Egypt who is aware of the existence of professionalism and his deliberate failure to meet its standards. Others like Lamis el-Hadidi admit to it too, only passive-aggressively to silence critics. (After yelling on air at a former Egyptian colleague for “selling himself” and being a “traitor” for working for Jazeera, Hadidi grumbles sarcastically about those who would reign in her patriotic fervor by holding her to a journalistic code of ethics..) 

Lamis el-Hadidi is sick of "traitors"

Equally angry, but minus the helmet of hair, was el-Hadidi’s husband, Amr Adeeb, who was infuriated by novelist Alaa Al Aswany saying that the upcoming presidential elections will probably be like Mubarak’s 2005 rigged election -- which is an unnecessary shame, Al Aswany thinks, because Field Marshal Abdel Fatah El Sisi is popular and has a great chance of winning on his own, even if the elections were supervised by the UK’s House of Commons. “MB feloul (remnant)!” Adeeb bellowed and went on to demand to know why the ungrateful al-Aswany gave Morsi a chance and supported him (which he didn’t), but won’t do the same for Sisi, even though “if it weren’t for him, (al-Aswany) and (Adeeb) would be sharing a cell now.” 

Speaking of elections and Sisi, in case you were worried, the latter has a thought-through program (in his head, that is), according to filmmaker and now presidential adviser Khaled Youssef, who Sisi invited over about two months ago along with Hassanein Heikal, Mostafa Hegazi and Abdel Galeel Mostafa and instructed to work on his program and campaign, if they felt like it, while he tended to few a conspiracies before announcing his bid. Judging by Heikal’s “Sisi doesn’t need a program” statements and Youssef’s description of the program as something with “features,” no one seems to have taken him up on his offer. The features, Youssef revealed, include specific things like “a focus on security,” the “application of the constitution,” fighting corruption, distributing resources fairly among the people and opening up the country for investment, while looking out for the workforce. As for freedoms, its guarantee is the people’s desire to keep it. And since the program is uniquely original and its methods of application are anything but vague, Sisi is probably going to skip the campaigning, debating other candidates and touring the country bits, Youssef says.

Director Khaled Youssef talks about Sisi's electoral program

While Sisi wonders whether or not two televised interviews are enough to educate his voters on his non-program program, TV hosts like Mostafa Bakry are busy unveiling the details of the documents Morsi and his secretary tried to smuggle to Qatar. The documents allegedly contain important national security secrets, but no proof of the existence of the documents; history of how they were obtained; or explanation of their actual significance has been forthcoming. 

Bakry made more discoveries recently. Two weeks ago, a smiling Bakry received a phone call from Brigadier General Mohamed Ibrahim telling him that there are 1400 (no-longer) secret MB agents at loose in the cabinet. Gen. Ibrahim then revealed that the recent power cuts are not the result of an electricity shortage, they are the work of the MB…who are putting small boxes on electrical cables that damage the cables without sundering them, to cause power cuts  -- making it look like there is an electricity crisis and the government is incompetent. The problem with these matchbox-sized, cable-crippling boxes is that they are hard to find, the general explained in a tone that implied they can’t possibly be expected to look for them. The general then left us with another example of MB terrorism from el-Marg, where they were caught polluting the crystal clear drinking water, before answering a long forgotten question: who burnt down the Institute for Scientific Research during the cabinet clashes of 2011?

You should be able to guess the answer. But in case you, like Moses and the Egyptian people, are exasperatingly argumentative and tend to ask too many favors and questions (according to expert on religious affairs Amany el-Khayat) the Institute was targeted because it contained the only documents to prove that the Armenian genocide happened (apart from this Independent article and the rest of the Internet) which Turkey, the MB’s partner, didn’t couldn't risk leaving to gather dust in a building hardly anyone heard of before its combustion. And if you want to smell the smoke coming out of the barrel, the Israeli and the US governments were mad at the UNESCO for recognizing Palestine and were clearly going to burn a building loaded with historical valuables to get back at the agency. 

When not uncovering conspiracies and boxes on cables, Bakry can be found bemoaning satirist Bassem Youssef’s lack of shame, running pixelated footage (because Bassem Youssef is a female nipple now) of El Barnameg’s dirty jokes. 

Mustafa Bakry gives Bassem Youssef a hard time

Although the Egyptian media generally don’t report on anything outside Egypt (i.e. Cairo, unless there is a bloodbath somewhere), an exception was made for the alleged protest that took place in Qatar which the Egyptian media is now calling a revolution, whose freedom fighters Sada el-Badad’s Ahmed Moussa ardently supports.

If you have more Internet to waste, either try these songs about Bassem Youssef [the first one is a plagiarized Nancy Ajram song to make fun of BY for plagiarizing articles and the second calls him fake and homosexual] or watch Rola Kharsa remind Saudi Prince al-Waleed bin Talal that he owns land in Egypt, which he presumably doesn’t want any harm to come to, so he should have his channel, LBC, apologize for running a report on the vote for the pimp hashtag (#انتخبوا_العرص) in which they actually said the word.

PostsNour Youssefegypt, tv
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.)

Posts, TV reviewNour Youssefegypt, tv
Egypt's Jon Stewart

Last week, thanks to Zeinobia, I discovered Bassem Youssef, a 37-year-old heart surgeon turned internet phenomenon and would-be scourge of all sycophants and fabricators on Egyptian TV. The segments on his YouTube channel are smart, slick, funny and obviously inspired by his idol, Jon Stewart. 

I had the pleasure of sitting in on the filming of some episodes last weekend. My profile of Youssef is now up at The Daily Beast. Here's a bit: 

"Of course we’re just doing 5 minutes,” he’s quick to point out. “Jon Stewart does half an hour. He has celebrities. He has his own cast of fake reporters and cameras. We do it at home using YouTube material. We’re kind of like the ghetto version of Jon Stewart.”

Youssef, who describes himself as "obsessed with TV," discovered Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert during one of his frequent trips to the United States. Back in Egypt, he watches their shows online.

Hosting an Egyptian incarnation of The Daily Show has been a day-dream for Youssef but before the revolution "there were all these red lines." Those red lines haven’t all been swept away. But in post-Mubarak Egypt—especially online—there’s a heady sense of freedom.

“What happened in the revolution was unprecedented,” says Youssef. “The extent and the magnitude of the hypocrisy and misleading information and misleading the public never happened before and will never happen again. That’s why we have a lot of controversy; we have a lot of material. It was a gold mine.”

You can read the whole piece here; it includes my translation of a few segments of the show. Otherwise, if you speak Arabic, check out all the episodes of the soon-to-be-very-famous Bassem Youssef Show over at his channel. 

Links for 08.13.09 to 08.14.09
✪ » Hashish in the Muslim World | Interesting post quoting medieval scholar's research into the spread of hashish in the Arab world in the 12th and 13th century, and some examination of Ibn Taymiyya's verdict that smoking hash is a worse sin than drinking wine, which is an unusual interpretation today (indeed many will say that smoking hash is not forbidden at all, although that is a rather convenient interpretation!)
✪ The Case of Reda Helal and the Alienation of the Journalist Asharq Alawsat Newspaper (English) | Wow: "Asharq Al-Awsat recently published a report on Reda Helal, quoting some of his family members who learnt, via private means, that Reda was still alive and being held at an Alexandrian prison. However, no official comment has been made on this new piece of information." But most of the article is about the predicament of Arab journalists; I like this: "The journalist has two options; to have the skill of writing without really saying anything in particular, or to have the courage to reveal his true thoughts and positions regardless of the harm this might inflict upon him or, in some cases, the benefit he might gain; in other words, to accept responsibility for his words and ideologies. But very few are willing to do this."
✪ Asharq Al-Awsat Investigates: Tackling Yemen's Qat Epidemic Asharq Alawsat Newspaper (English) | Interesting and quite thorough article on the drug Qat, which a large number of Yemenis chew on a daily basis.
✪ Palestinians get their own Google domain | Today the internet, tomorrow the land!
✪ Bernard Lewis was my guide… (Then I went to the Middle East) | Must-read letter by a student who was a neocon until... he went to the Middle East.
✪ Faith and desire in Albert Square | Khaled Diab |Comment is free | About gay Muslims on Eastenders - the British soap opera.