In March 2011, two months after the revolution that ousted President Hosni Mubarak, there was a massive Muslim Brotherhood conference entitled: “What are the characteristics of Egypt’s next president?”
One of the speakers, Imam Safwat Higazi, said we must not choose “an overly educated” president - that is, not someone from the elite, or who was educated outside Egypt, or who knows several languages. A president with such characteristics will treat people as inferior, and we want a president “whom we know how to deal with and speak to.”
These statements did not shock me. Three years earlier, Fox News launched a campaign against Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama. It described him as “a figure from the elite,” and said Americans need a president they can have a beer with. I told myself that these are right-wing movements that hate those whom they consider overly educated because they might expose their ignorance.
I realized later that blind hatred of any educated person who has different capabilities and who thinks differently is a genuine part of people’s intellect - not only people who belong to Islamist movements, but also well-off people who send their children for education or tourism outside Egypt.
Rooting out the ‘agents’
Former Vice-President Mohamed ElBaradei is an agent because he lived and learnt outside Egypt. The Nobel prize he received was his reward for sabotaging the country. If he is praised in international arenas, then he is getting paid as a part-time traitor.
It is interesting that the personal photos which Mubarak’s regime used against opposition figures were later used by supporters of the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces. They were then used by Brotherhood supporters, then by those who ousted former President Mohammad Mursi. There is an amazing resemblance in the comments of those who love Mubarak, the army, sharia and jihad - different ideologies, same doggishness.
The same happened with activist Wael Ghoneim. At a time when the government is struggling with a deteriorating economy and education system, an Egyptian genius is assigned a respectable post in Google, one of the most prominent companies in the world. This makes him an agent and a traitor, and he must be punished.
Have failure and lack of achievements become the only acceptable things in Egypt?Bassem Youssef
When did success become a motive for making accusations? When did distinction become a reason to be ashamed of yourself? There is nothing wrong with criticizing ElBaradei, Ghoneim and others’ political stances. However, shifting from a mere political disagreement to a malicious attack to distort any scientific or professional achievement is a problem.
Did we not mock the Salafists when they accused writer Naguib Mahfuz of winning the Nobel prize as a reward for destroying the pillars of religion? We mock these allegations and praise the Nobel prize when it is won by someone who does not threaten our political orientations. However, this same prize and international praise become a scandal when it is won by those we disagree with.
ElBaradei is a traitor because he worked in Vienna. Ghoneim is a traitor because he succeeded in the United States. However, there is nothing against army chief Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, despite the fact that he learnt at the American West Point Academy, the most prominent military academy in the world.
Myself as a traitor
A newspaper once accused me of being a traitor, a spy and a CIA agent. The editor-in-chief provided solid evidence: “Bassem Youssef graduated in 1999. He attained an MA degree, a doctorate degree, the British College of Surgeons’ fellowship, and a license of occupation from the United States. All this happened in seven years. How did he do that if he was not supported by foreign powers?”
Have failure and lack of achievements become the only acceptable things in Egypt? We are living in an era of burning witches. If you doubt someone, dump her in a river. If she floats, she is a witch and must be burnt. If she drowns, we are wrong and we are sorry; may God help her. The creative, the intellectual and the writer is a traitor and a spy just because he thinks differently to you.
The ready-made accusation is that he follows the West and its style. What else would he do when you have killed all his creativity, leaving him with no choice but to develop himself with new ideas from the outside? Dark history is repeating itself. Arab and Muslim scholars excelled in science and literature because they translated and quoted others. Then they became creative themselves, so they were accused of infidelity and atheism.
Now there are accusations of treason, collaboration and other nonsense about a fifth column aiming to destroy Egypt. The atmosphere of hatred and fear spread by Mubarak, the Brotherhood, the current authorities and its media has turned our people into creatures who hate logic, science and enlightenment, a frenzied people drowning in fear and myths.
Turning people into mobs makes it easier to control them and direct them against anyone who wants to achieve real change. If people are liberated from your ignorance, no one will listen to your nonsense or believe you.
This article was first published in al-Shorouk on Feb. 18, 2014.
Bassem Youssef is is an Egyptian doctor, satirist, and the host of El Bernameg ("The Program"), a satirical news program broadcast by a private Egyptian television station. The press has compared Youssef with American comedian Jon Stewart, whose satire program The Daily Show inspired Youssef to begin his career. Despite all controversy and legal debates it has sparked, El Bernameg has been a major success. It is constantly topping the regional YouTube charts, making Youssef's YouTube channel one of the most subscribed to in Egypt.