A popular Egyptian satirist has returned on air poking new fun at the country’s ruling Muslim Brotherhood, and the international publicity he received after lampooning President Mohamed Morsi.
Bassem Youssef jokingly said in his weekly TV show on Friday, that after his interrogation before the country’s top prosecutor, he would not focus on Morsi and his government, then went on to make fun of both.
“After my visit to the prosecutor, I decided not to talk any more about Morsi. So I’m going to talk about the prosecutor, especially his problems!” he said.
Then Youssef spent a good part of his show ridiculing both the attorney general and the president.
“Not everything has to be about the president,” Youssef said. “This is not fear. I am not pulling back”.
The television audience, which included one of Egypt’s most prominent opposition figures, Hamdeen Sabahi, erupted in applause and laughter.
Directly addressing Morsi, Youssef said, “I would love to know how you make your decisions”.
Out on bail
Youssef, who is a medical doctor by profession, regularly skewers the country’s ruling party on his wildly popular weekly programme “Albernameg” (The Show), which is modelled on popular American comedian Jon Stewart’s The Daily Show.
He is currently out on $2,200 bail after an interrogation on Sunday that lasted nearly five hours.
He was questioned on accusations of offending Islam through “making fun of the prayer ritual” and of insulting Morsi by “making fun of his international standing”.
He is also subject to a new investigation for “threatening public security”.
Responding to a member of Morsi’s party who said that Youssef only focuses on the Islamist group and the president, he joked: “They are not two things. They are one”.
It was a way of mocking the president’s insistence that his policy decisions are made independent of the Brotherhood from which he hails.
The charges Youssef have raised international concerns and Morsi himself on Wednesday stressed Egypt’s commitment to freedom of expression, insisting that citizens’ complaints, not his office, were behind the probe against Youssef.
On Friday, the US Commission on International Religious Freedom expressed concern about the Egyptian government’s application of what it called “blasphemy-like charges,” saying they were being used to stifle dissent and limit the freedoms of religion and expression.
Recent legal moves against protesters, activists and critics like Youssef come as unrest in Egypt continues amid deep political polarisation.
The opposition charges that Morsi, in office for only nine months, has failed to tackle any of the nation’s most pressing problems. They said the Brotherhood is trying to monopolise power, breaking its promise to include other factions in key decisions.
Morsi has blamed the country’s woes on corruption under Mubarak as well as ongoing protests. He said the opposition has no grassroots support and, along with former regime supporters, is stoking unrest for political gain.