When you watch the so-called Islamic channels, you realize you are confronting a new type of media in Egypt. It is, as they say,conservative and religious media aiming to put people on the right path. You can tell this by watching the first few seconds of a show’s introduction, which is void of music as it is forbidden. Instead, they use human voices that are digitally altered. Then a sheikh appears and begins to calmly read Quranic verses.
However, it is only a few minutes before the atmosphere changes entirely. Following a thoughtful religious introduction, the host and his guests engage in a conversation that may last until dawn, gossiping and discussing affairs linked to people’s reputations. They may go as far as spreading rumors against their political rivals.
They use expressions such as “I was told”, “someone told me,” or “someone swore to me” that “this man is gay, that man’s wife, daughter and mother did this and that.” It seems that talking about people’s reputations is their favorite spicy topic. Why talk about someone’s actions and statements when you can talk about his wife, mother and daughter?
These people claim to possess spiritual, moral and religious superiority. If you have lost your moral sense, how can you claim that you are here to guide people towards virtuous morals when your communication skills have descended to a level lower than that of your opponents?
Is this the Islamic media you preach about? Is this the Islamic society you are teaching about? Is that it? Gossiping and mocking? How is this any different than the immoral programs you attack?
‘Smart’ media moves
These people are actually extremely smart. Why tire themselves and attempt to alter the morals of people who spend their time at coffee shops and use the most insulting of expressions while fighting in traffic? They have presented to the people a fatty meal of gossip, mockery and rudeness, thus gaining an audience. This has not only happened on TV, but also in mosques and during religious lessons.
We are thus confronting a comprehensive media product. You want to see people being insulted and their reputations tarnished? There is a show for that. You want to hear rumors and gossip? There is also a show for that. You want to hear insults or sexual comparisons? There is also a show for that. And they all come within a conservative religious context, so you do not feel guilty.
These people whom God granted education have chosen the shortest path to reach people. Alter people’s morals is difficult, so they address them using the same rhetoric they use, thus increasing moral decline. As a result, the screen which they claim grants you limitless advantages transforms into one granting you disadvantages that no one holds you accountable for. The screen which they claim will take you to heaven throws you to the depths of hell.
This article was first published in Egypt-based al-Shorouk on May 28, 2013.
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.