Bassem Youssef: Egypt’s third movement

Diana Moukalled
Diana Moukalled
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Bassem Youssef did it.

He trespassed the boundaries of what is prohibited and criticized even those whom the people were about to make sacred.

Bassem Youssef returned to disseminate his comedic spirit all over again after four months of absence, mysteriousness and inquiries.

We are not making him carry more than he can bear. But concern over him and even the admiration and the divisions surrounding his return to the first episode of this season of al-Bernameg two days ago reveal the emptiness that many people are going through.

The Egyptians are not the only ones who feel the brunt of the great divisions in our societies. Therefore, it is normal for many people to get engaged in the follow-up and comments campaign regarding the return of the most important satirical figure in the Arab world.

Yes. Youssef made sure to distribute his sharp critical remarks among what he described as the Brotherhood’s fascism, the military’s fascism and the society’s division between these two options.

The Egyptians are not the only ones who feel the brunt of the great divisions in our societies

Diana Moukalled

Youssef mocked the media’s exaggeration and the deification of certain figures, particularly of General Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, without losing his sense of humor and his massive capability to make us laugh at ourselves and at our bleak situation. He also did not forget to warn of the continuity of the policy of silencing opposing voices and concluded the episode by arms approaching him in an attempt to silence him.

But why must we care about what Bassem Youssef said and about what he mocked?

Simply because he provided us with a dose of democratic life and gave us a third option. Yes, the third option which goes beyond revolutions, countries and concepts. It’s an option overwhelmed by frustration and grief, the moans of which can still be heard via Twitter and Facebook. It’s an option which surfaced at the beginning of the Arab Spring as the purest manifestation of the uprisings before the fists of the Brotherhood and the Salafists scattered it and before the chants of the military smashed it.

Yes, the third option is a civil and democratic option that’s emerged from outside the Islamists’ and military’s umbrella. You can find this option in an article or a comment or a movie or an independent politician’s opinion or even in a small gathering that hasn’t yet reached the phase of becoming a balancing third power.

Opening the doors

If Bassem Youssef is the most prominent passage towards this option and if he’s the man who’s the loudest at echoing it, then this is because it’s a divided movement whose peacefulness is incapable of confronting the fatwas (religious edicts) of murder and the accusations of terrorism and espionage. It’s a movement that does not have a clear gathering for itself. Bassem Youssef’s lightness, ingenuity and modernity thus came to provide this option with an idea and an image to match.

He who followed up on the comments made after last week’s episode of al-Bernameg feels that many people have been revived. I am not talking about those who are upset with the Brotherhood or with Sisi’s supporters or with the military. I am talking about those who kept silent during the past months while feeling they were all alone.

An Egyptian woman wrote on Twitter: “They asked me if I am with the Brotherhood or with Sisi. I told them I am with Bassem Youssef.”

Today, however, it doesn’t seem that this third option has solid ground. Egypt is currently divided between the option of the military and the option of the Brotherhood. But there remains a resounding voice called Bassem Youssef.

This article was first published in al-Sharq al-Awsat on Oct. 28, 2013.


Diana Moukalled is the Web Editor at the Lebanon-based Future Television and was the Production & Programming Manager with at the channel. Previously, she worked there as Editor in Chief, Producer and Presenter of “Bilayan al Mujaradah,” a documentary that covers hot zones in the Arab world and elsewhere, News and war correspondent and Local news correspondent. She currently writes a regular column in AlSharq AlAwsat. She also wrote for Al-Hayat Newspaper and Al-Wasat Magazine, besides producing news bulletins and documentaries for Reuters TV. She can be found on Twitter: @dianamoukalled.

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