When dictators start jailing their critics — the latest are Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas — they destroy any claim to believing in freedom and democracy.
Egypt’s first democratically elected president apparently has quickly forgotten his promise that in “no way” would harm come to anyone who criticized him. Bassem Youssef, the country’s most popular comedian and satirist, was arrested for insulting the president and Islam. It seems Morsi, the former leader of the Muslim Brotherhood, was offended when Youssef made fun of Morsi’s poor English and the hat he wore while receiving an honorary degree in Pakistan.
With a background picture of George W. Bush and himself wearing Stetsons, Jon Stewart, one of this nation’s leading comedians and satirists, said:
“Making fun of the president’s hat and less than fluent English? That was my entire career for eight years.”
Yousseff has been called the Jon Stewart of Egypt. Stewart, host of The Daily Show, is not only a humorist with a talent for skewering pompous politicians, he is also considered the most trusted news source for millions of Americans, particularly under 40.
Stewart came to the defense of his friend Yousseff and on his broadcast Monday night and reminded the new Egyptian ruler:
“Without Bassem and all those journalists and bloggers and brave protesters who took to Tahrir Square to voice dissent, you, President Morsi, would not have been in a position to repress them.”
The incident tells much about the hope for democracy and what Morsi really has in mind for Egypt. He is quickly turning into another dictator; critics are calling him Mubarak with a beard, referring to the superficial difference between the Islamist president and his secular predecessor.
Stewart pointed out that if we had laws here that outlawed criticism of the president he would have been in trouble during the Bush administration and today Fox News would be behind bars.