Why is there so much anger about the Rabaa sign?

Four-fingered salute flashed all over Egypt

Bassem Youssef

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For some, the Rabaa sign is a symbol of steadfastness, while for others, it’s tantamount to the devil’s sign. It might be a source of happiness for those who flash it and a source of tension and worry for the unfortunate ones who happen to be driving their cars near protests of those in support of it.

The sign terrifies many people, considering that many cars were destroyed and many people were verbally or physically assaulted during these protests.

“Flash the Rabaa sign to pass by and get it over with,” is a valuable piece of advice for those who want to peacefully keep going his way.

Meanwhile, one student was honored because he innovated a way to rival the Rabaa sign – coming up with a three-fingered gesture to commemorate July 3rd – the date of Mohammad Mursi’s ouster.

Amidst all this, another crushed citizen is making a huge effort to resist his desire of giving the middle finger to everyone!

No hand signals

We insist that the June events were a revolution and swear that we revolted against religious fascism and dictatorship. We are democratic at everything except when it comes to hand signals.

People in my country think democracy means the consensus of 90 million people on one decision. Many agreed to love army chief Abdel Fattah al-Sisi but didn’t forget to remain divided because they hate one another.

The truth is, the international community is wondering how can millions of people who think they are the biggest crowd in history get so tense because of few hand signals!

Bassem Youssef

We swear at the U.S. and Europe and brag about the independence of our political actions. But at the same time, we seek to gain their approval of our revolution and launch weak English language television channels so Obama would watch them and applaud Mursi’s ouster as a revolution and not a coup.

Many voiced doubts in the January 25 revolution and resorted to conspiracy theories to prove that the uprising was neither a revolution nor a coup and was instead a demonic act of treason and conspiracy.

Too tense

But we didn’t hear that anyone got arrested because he was against the January 2011 uprising. We didn’t hear that a player was suspended because he participated in the protests in support of Hosni Mubarak.

We must be happy now that football player Ahmed Abdelzaher and Kung Fu champion Mohamed Youssef have been suspended. Abdelzaher’s and Youssef’s hand signals may have altered the international community’s stance towards our revolution!

The truth is, the international community is wondering how can millions of people who think they are the biggest crowd in history get so tense because of few hand signals!

Actually, I am not interested in the Rabaa sign. Many aren’t interested in it and many don’t care about it. But the exaggerated reaction whenever someone flashes the sign is a comic reaction that reflects extreme weakness and lack of self-confidence.

Punishing those who flash the Rabaa sign contributes to strengthening this sign. When you insist on restraining the flashing of a hand signal, people will deliberately carry out this act just to provoke you.


I am almost confident that teenagers flashing the sign during Brotherhood protests have no clue what the word “legitimacy” means but they flash the sign just to provoke others or just for the sake of it.

The assassination of a police officer and the killing of our soldiers patrolling our borders is a matter more important than the Rabaa, sign and more important than arresting people on accusations of carrying a balloon that bears the sign. Equating the war on terrorism with the arrests of people flashing certain hand signals insults the memory of those soldiers and police who died while fighting terrorism.

Why do we insist on losing guaranteed battles and focus so much on silly matters?

People will continue to flash the Rabaa sign. But they will not do so because the Brotherhood’s popularity is increasing. They will do so because one of the authority’s fatal mistakes is revealing to the people that such a simple act can harm its prestige.
So if you are angry at the state for economic and social reasons, you don’t really need to protest or insult and attack state facilities. You have figured out a simple way to anger and provoke the government as there’s nothing easier than flashing the Rabaa sign!

The article was originally published in al-Shorouk on Nov. 26, 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.

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