Bassem Youssef, the "Jon Stewart of the Arab World," arrested over insults to Egyptian President Morsi
Bassem Youssef, the comedian and television personality known as "the Jon Stewart of the Arab World," was officially summoned for questioning over the weekend by Egypt’s public prosecutor. The summoning followed the issue of an arrest warrant for Youssef, on the charges of insulting Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi and the Islamic faith. Youssef, a practicing Muslim, appeared in court on Sunday where he posted a $2,200 bail on three lawsuits filed against him.
Youssef recently appeared opposite his American progenitor on 'The Daily Show with Jon Stewart,' where he discussed his role as a comedic political commentator. Youssef also spoke at SXSW last month to discuss the evolving roles of comedy, satire and entertainment in the Middle East. It would seem that, although Mohamed Morsi is the first democratically-elected President in Egyptian history, old dictatorial habits die hard.
While on 'The Daily Show with Jon Stewart' Youssef spoke about receiving death threats due to this show, however this is the first time that the state of Egypt has pursued legal action against him. A former heart surgeon before turning to comedy, Youssef rose to popularity thanks to his funny online political sketches posted during the 'Arab Spring' uprising. Eventually Youssef's popularity lead him to his own show on sattelite television entitled 'El Bernameg' (translated as 'The Program'). Everything had been smooth sailing for Youssef until a recent joke where Youssef had screened Morsi's face onto a pillow and portrayed the President as a Pharoh named "Super Morsi." The joke angered many and lead to the filing of three (possibly four) lawsuits.
While speaking at SXSW, Youssef said of Egypt "we’re not exactly the most stable democracy… We’re at a turning point so people maybe don’t take criticism as well as they do [in America]." This is not the first time that the Morsi government has been accused of stifling freedom of speech. Youssef downplayed his own involvement in political change in Egypt, by choosing to write on his twitter account in English yesterday: "touched by people's support and media attention, however, there are many more activists being prosecuted that deserve to get that support."
New to Youssef's work? Check out one of his episodes (with English subtitles) below!