I’m a fan of watching sci-fi movies particularly those about time travel and parallel universes.
This world or this parallel universe is completely similar to your original world. It has the same characters and same places. But due to certain events or different circumstances, these characters play roles that are different and contradictory to those played in the real world.
There have been many movies that imagine the concepts of a parallel universe. They all depend on the idea of “What if?”
I remembered this concept while following up on last week's events in Egypt. I followed up on discussions over the legitimacy of ousted president Mohammed Mursi and whether what happened was a military coup or a one which was carried out upon the will of the people. Also, whether shutting down religious channels is considered suppression or prevention of strife and thus an attempt to contain violence.
Instead of occupying myself with answering these questions, I asked myself one question: What if?
What if we are living in an alternative reality and parallel universe where the June 30 events failed to oust President Mohamed Mursi? What would such a parallel universe be like?
I cannot answer this question without bringing up the president's last speech on June 26. Yes, that famous speech that lasted for more than two hours and a half. Yes, that speech in which Mursi named and shamed alleged “thugs” in Egypt seeking to wreak havoc.
Apart from the sarcastic material that this speech provided for my show, I considered this speech to be the president's most dangerous one.
Mursi’s code word
We were in front of a president complaining to his enthusiastic audience about several individuals, several TV channels, and people in the media who don't respect his age. He complained and complained and complained.
At a certain moment, the president said the historic Egyptian code word "De Lesseps." But he didn’t say it like late president Gamal Abdel Nasser did, who used it as a code word to launch a military operation to nationalize the Suez Canal. He said it in a different way. He said it in four words that inflamed the audiences' fervour. He said: "A year is enough!"
These words were enough to make the audience go wild. "A year is enough," it's been finally said! This good president will be silent no more! "A year is enough" my dears! You’ve joked about me for a long time, but this is enough! I will forgive no more.
The president's supporters clapped and cheered. Then they began screaming their favorite chants "purge, purge." It's this same chant that was repeated during all of the president's popular conferences – "the people want to purge the media." I now remember the angry faces who in previous conferences requested the president to begin flushing the “puging”. But he would signal with his hand to calm them and say we things like how should be patient with one another and how we should give eachother chances. But this time, "a year is enough" meant there would be no second chances.
You can argue that these speeches only have aims of appeasing the crowds. But hours afterwards, threatening messages were sent out from the ministry of investment, headed by a Brotherhood minister, to private TV channels. They were threatened of being shut down if they continue to criticize the president.
So, the president meant it, "one year is enough."
We now know that there was a list of 21 media figures and politicians, including myself, that were to be targeted and arrested.
So, the president meant it, "one year is enough."
The scene quickly switches to Cairo’s Rabia al-Adawiya Square where pro-Mursi protesters began gathering two days before June 30. It was the surprise that Khaled Abdullah, the famous host of the Islamic Egypt-based Al-Nas channel, warned us of: "You will face a surprise that your minds cannot handle. It's the opposing masses that will terrify those opposing the president. Those opposing the president will find that they have no influence. So, it will end here and they will prove to the people that the people’s will is with the president to make the promise of 'one year is enough.'"
The scene was magnificent in Rabia. Those who took to the podium excited the people with sentences like "You are here today defending God's religion" and "Today, we have come for (the sake of) martyrdom."
Egypt-based Islamic channels Al-Hafez, Al-Nas and Misr 25 adopted purely sectarian rhetoric.
"A year is enough" turned into a plan with a goal, while channels continued to incite people urging them to defend God's religion even if it leads to martyrdom in the fight against the "the enemy," who is us.
Now we can imagine this parallel universe. We can imagine what could have happened if President Mohammed Mursi stayed in his post.
There is no room for weeping over democracy, shutting down inciting religious channels and the drama over whether this was a military coup or not. In this parallel world, the decision to shut down private channels was going to be implemented, political and media figures were going to be arrested and accusations of high treason and plans to change the regime were going to be made against prominent politicians.
Mursi's speech is a result of a long year in which the scene turned from an attempt to co-exist with others into a struggle to survive; a space where one party emerges victorious and the other is defeated.
The president has placed us in clashing paths. Instead of answers which should have been about "you and us," we instead began to question whether it was about "us or them?"
In a perfect world...
You can get angry, revolt and weep over shutting down inciting channels in order to satisfy your conscience. You can argue whether what happened was a political coup or a popular revolution to which the army responded.
But ask yourself, what if this alternative was a parallel universe? Would these religious channels, that adopted insults and hate speech, have defended you?
Yes, in a perfect world, shutting down channels and isolating leaderships is wrong and a violation of freedoms. But, my dear, you were not living in a perfect world. To those who dream of co-existence, how do you co-exist with he who wants to raise arms in your face and with he who considers killing you and imprisoning you or shutting down your media outlet as a victory for Islam?
To the Islamist who is weeping over democracy, you have usurped democracy. You spawned an unjust majority acting with superiority in the name of religion. You requested your president to shut down channels, besiege judicial institutions, torture those opposing your president at the Ittihadiya presidential palace. And you terrified a Coptic engineer who could not utter his name so his religion wouldn’t be figured out. You cheered for insulting the Shiites and did not care that they were killed. And in the end, you were going to overlook shutting down private channels because you would have considered that as a prevention of strife, a victory for Islam, an elimination of corruption and a response to the immortal chant "purge, purge the media."
Therefore, after we finish our debates, remember how the situation will be if we had chosen the alternative truth and the parallel universe.
My dear reader, in the parallel world, you won't read this article because its writer will either be imprisoned or killed. You will switch on your TV to watch Misr 25 broadcasting live footage of the burning studios of private TV channels. The people would be chanting "it's done, the people have purged the media." Protesters would be raising banners that will immortalize the president's famous sentence: "one year is enough."
This article was first published in Egypt-based al-Shorouk on July 9, 2013.
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.