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Bassem Youssef: Jon Stewart promotes tolerance

Bassem Youssef

Published: Updated:

Somewhere in the middle of Manhattan in New York, before entering the studio, I sat on my chair in the room allocated for guests. I was waiting my turn in the third segment as a guest on Jon Stewart’s show - the host of the most famous satirical news program in the U.S. It is the second time he hosts me in ten months. I was glad to meet the man who turned from a star I used to be a fan of into a loyal friend who stood by me when they interrogated me or who rather previously stood by the Egyptian revolution and defended freedom of speech in Egypt more than once.

I smile when I remembered the fierce criticism I was subjected to by religious television stations. Jon Stewart is Jewish. These critics talk about Islam’s tolerance and co-existence with other religions yet at the same time they do not differentiate between Judaism (as a religion) and Zionism (as a political orientation). As a result, we cry out that the West places Muslims, Arabs and terrorists in the same category.

Anyhow, I was waiting to enter the studio. Before my entrance to the studio, there were two segments.

The show began with a segment on the aftermath of the Boston attacks in which the two brothers of Chechen origin who grew up and got educated in the U.S. were suspected. It's up to you, of course, to imagine the media mobilization against Muslims in America, but Jon Stewart satirically discussed reactions from Fox News.

Defending American values

Jon Stewart routinely mocks Fox News. It appears the world’s extremist right-wing groups are a goldmine for political satire. But what is new this time is that amidst the media mobilization against Muslims, the “Jewish” Jon Stewart stood up to defend the rights of Muslim citizens, not out of his love for them or any bias towards Islam, but out of defending the principles of the American constitution and its moral and humane values. Why would a man choose to swim against the current? Instead of mocking those who benefited from this country’s bounties and then turned against it and falling into the trap of generalizing Muslims, he chose to defend the principles that make his country, the leader of the democratic world as they say.

Jon Stewart followed up on the statements and comments about Fox News’ hosts and guests. He compared the American Bill of Rights with what these right-wing figures had called for. There was Sean Hannity, Fox News’ famous host, requesting that torture methods be allowed to attain information. He particularly called for adopting “water boarding” as a means of torture. Stewart noted that such an act would be a violation of the eighth amendment stipulating that “cruel and unusual punishments [shall not be] inflicted.”

Another host requested fresh debates over imposing supervision in mosques and for them to be regularly searched. Jon Stewart responded by saying such an act is a violation of the fourth amendment, which guards against unreasonable Bassem Youssef 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.

Disclaimer: Views expressed by writers in this section are their own and do not reflect Al Arabiya English's point-of-view.