Against the Tide of Hatred

In his commentary, popular Egyptian television presenter and comic Bassem Youssef castigates the growing intolerance and political narrow-mindedness in contemporary Egypt beyond the confines of the ideological camp

By Bassem Youssef

Congratulations, everyone: we've finally got rid of the Muslim Brotherhood forever. What a burden off our shoulders!

Finally, we will have a Muslim Brotherhood-less Egypt and, God willing, there will be no more Salafis either. It's only a matter of days until the Muslim Brotherhood (MB) members are rounded up in jail once again, and Egypt's normal state is restored. That normal state, where people look good without beards or niqabs; those "good-looking people" we see on TV. Egypt will finally be a free, liberal country. Good riddance, Islamists.

What's that? Some MB members died at the Republic Guard? And why were they there in the first place? Aren't you glad this happened to them? Why aren't you gloating? You must be a Brotherhood supporter! You must be an enemy of the military and the state and probably work as a part-time terrorist!

Inciting rhetoric in the private media

No. I support what happened on the 30th of June and saw that Morsi was unfit to be president but that doesn't deny the fact that I believe there needs to be a thorough investigation into the events of the Republic Guard; that I'd like to know how long the Islamists TV channels will be closed; and that I find the private media to be full of discrimination and inciting rhetoric.

Soldiers stand guard at the headquarters of the Republican Guard in Cairo, Egypt (photo: DW)
Bloody confrontation close to the Republican Guard officers' club in Cairo: In the early hours of 8 June, the emergency services say at least 42 died and many more than 300 others were injured here. The violence occurred during protest staged by the Muslim Brotherhood against the deposition of President Mohammed Morsi, thought to be detained here

​​No, no: you're being soft! Keep your human rights to yourself. These people can only be dealt with violently. We have to purge the country of these people.

The above is a reflection of the state of many who are on a 'victory high' – or so they imagine themselves to be. The fascist nature of those people is no different than that of the Islamists who think that their enemies' disappearance off this planet would be a victory for the religion of God.

But those on this 'victory high' consider themselves to be different; they justify their fascism for the "good of the country". These people with their liberal values and reverence for freedom differ very little from Khaled Abdullah, the radical preacher, or the "religious man" who was infamous for his favourite quote: "May God relieve us of you and your likes (the liberals)."

Distrust for the Muslim Brotherhood

I do not trust or believe the Muslim Brotherhood. We have witnessed from experience that they do not keep their word, and lie time and again, as long as it serves their political agenda. They have their means of manipulating religion and justifying their actions so long as it serves their politics.

The MB and the Salafis supported the Internal Security Forces when they attacked the protestors and called those who created sit-ins in Tahrir Square thugs, spies, homosexuals and drug addicts. The Islamists were the first to brownnose the military, and deem the resistance to the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF) as an attack on the state. They were the ones eager to openly distrust the Copts, accusing them of treason and conspiracy with the West.

Then, the MB rushed to Washington and the "vulgar, atheist, anti-Islamic" American media. Mohammed Beltagy of the Muslim Brotherhood stated that the terrorism in Sinai won't cease until Morsi is reinstated as President which means that a senior MB leader is admitting that the ousted President is relying on terrorists to maintain his rule.

Yes, the MB has done all of this and more; and for that, Morsi deserved to be protested against by the masses, and his organization deserved the abhorrence and repulsion towards them from the people. The senior Brotherhood leaders need to undergo investigation on charges of inciting violence, as well as their shady international relations. This is the legal and political course that needs to take place.

Muslim Brothers fear for their lives

Aside from this, there is also a humanitarian issue on the table. People's lives have been lost, regardless of whether these people are from the MB or the SCAF or ordinary civilians. There are protestors from the Muslim Brotherhood who believe that should they leave the safe haven of their protest camp at Rabaa al-Adawiya mosque, they will be instantly killed or incarcerated. These people are never going to disappear.

Supporters of ousted president Morsi protest fiercely against his deposition (photo: Reuters)
The Brotherhood in a rage: Bassem Youssef accuses Islamists within the Muslim Brotherhood of being the first to cosy up to the military following the ousting of Mubarak. Ironically, it is now the military that has become the Muslim Brotherhood's fiercest enemy

​​And should they actually leave the protest sit-in one day, they will return to their homes filled with hatred, frustration and disappointment, which will augment in the South of Egypt and neglected Delta area; and they will return, with more violence and determination in store.

This 'victory high' and arrogance that you see in the private media is the same sort of behaviour that ended the Brotherhood's era, and overthrew their popularity. We are now repeating the Brotherhood's same mistakes. It's as though we have the memory span of a goldfish.

I could write volumes on the lack of intelligence on the part of the Brotherhood and their corruption of both religion and politics, but that is another battle that requires different tools. We are losing this battle before it has even begun: those who claim to be freedom fighters and have been denouncing the fascism and discrimination of the Brotherhood are now contributing to the building of sympathy towards them. They are a disgrace to the principles of freedom they claim to stand for.

We are returning par excellence to the atmosphere of the nineties when we settled for "the security option" and the media corruption and let the chests rage with a fire of hatred, and allowed extremism to deepen day after day.

I do believe that shutting down the Islamist channels was an important decision during a sensitive period, but I'm now calling for their return. Let them talk as they wish; it has only served to make people hate the Brotherhood and be repulsed by them. Do not give them the chance to play the victim. What are you afraid of? Of their discriminatory media rhetoric? Or of their public political stupidity?

Illiberal liberals

My dear anti-Brotherhood liberal, allow me to remind you that just a few weeks ago you were desperately complaining about how grim the future looked, but now that you have been "relieved" of the Muslim Brotherhood you have become a carbon copy of their fascism and discrimination. You could respond by saying that they deserve it; that they supported the security forces and used them to overpower you, to cheat and spread rumours and widen sectarian strife.

But is that really your argument? Have you made of their lowly ways a better alternative for you than abiding by the principles you have stood by for so long? They lost their moral compass a long time ago – do you want to follow suit?

On Tahrir Square on June 30th, thousands celebrate the ousting of Muhammed Morsi (photo: Reuters)
Breathing new life into Egypt's democratization process; or the launch of a new military dictatorship? "This 'victory high' and arrogance that you see in the private media is the same sort of behaviour that ended the Brotherhood's era, and overthrew their popularity. We are now repeating the Brotherhood's same mistakes," Bassem Youssef says

​​Don't you see that by inciting violence towards Palestinians and Syrians you are exactly like them, when they incite violence towards the Shi'is, the Baha'is, the Christians, and the other Muslims who opposed the Brotherhood and the Salafis? We have replaced the "enemies of Islam" scarecrow with the "enemies of the state" scarecrow. The ideas, approaches and appearances have disappeared, and all that remains are fascism and discrimination that unite us over hatred, rather than reconcile our prejudices.

The autonomy of justice

Take the leaders of the Brotherhood to court – and investigate the events at the Republican Guard. Ensure the autonomy of justice – whether the victims are from your camp, or the other's. Demand a clear framework within which all political parties are to operate, so that no party can ever spread such discriminatory, sectarian rhetoric again.

Yes, the leaders of the Brotherhood must be tried just as the leaders of the National Democratic Party (NDP) were tried in the case of provision of enough evidence and within the limits of the law. But remember you will never be able to erase the existence of those thousands off the face of the Earth. You will not be able arrest those thousands and their families and children, and you will not be able to prevent them from winning syndicate elections. All you're currently doing is repeating their past mistakes by turning a blind eye to those thousands, but you are only burying a living truth that will come back to hit you, or the coming generations in the face.

Kudos to those who have not allowed the victory high to rob them of their humanity; to those few who are currently isolated by everyone else and are not welcome in either camp unless they go with the current flow of hatred and gloating.

Humanity has now become an isolated island among wild waves of discrimination and extremism. On this island live those isolated few, their voices fading in the midst of the roaring cries for vengeance and murder. I'm not optimistic about a population increase on that island anytime soon. But maybe in the future people will migrate to it and try to get to know this thing called humanity that we've all been stripped of.

What I fear most is if a time comes when we pass by that island and cry in dismay: "Alas, nobody lives there anymore."

Bassem Youssef

© Bassem Youssef / Tahrir Squared 2013

Dr Bassem Youssef is the TV Host of 'The Program' and 'America in Arabic'. Dubbed the 'Jon Stewart of the Arab world', he was named as one of the '100 most influential people in the world' by Time magazine. He tweets at @DrBassemYoussef .

Translated from the Arabic by Nadine H. Hafez editor: Lewis Gropp