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Us and the West

Everybody uses Western countries as examples to justify the actions of the authority they approve of

Bassem Youssef

Published: Updated:

“What do you think of the new protest law?” my friend asked me as he read an independent newspaper with a government flavor. I no longer read newspapers thoroughly. Interesting headlines and subheadings are usually enough to understand the whole story. I took a quick glance, and figured out right away that he was reading a report comparing the new protest law with similar laws in progressive Western countries.

The article was written in a way that makes you thank God 100 times because you were born in this sacred land called Egypt, which possesses all these brilliant security minds that came up with this marvellous law. If you compare it with the unjust laws of Europe, you would realize how merciful our government is!

The truth is, I do not care about protesting. I am not a fan of protests, and I do not like to make calls for mobilization.

Nonetheless, I am interested in observing people’s reactions, particularly their contradictory ones. My friend asked why, if Western countries have a protest law, they object if we have one too. Meanwhile, I thought about talk shows that in recent weeks have enthusiastically supported it.

I hope that the situation in Egypt calms down, and that I can drive in Cairo without the traffic jams that protests worsen. However, I cannot help but be surprised that the same anchormen who objected to a protest law under former President Mohamed Mursi are the same ones who now rush to defend it.

Mockery

The problem is that when defending it, they use the same examples that the Muslim Brotherhood used. The same ‘liberal’ anchormen who defend the law today used to mock the Brotherhood’s defense of it.

I cannot help but be surprised that the same anchormen who objected to a protest law under former President Mohamed Mursi are the same ones who now rush to defend it. Let us be frank with ourselves. We only like the West when it suits us.

Bassem Youssef

All people - whether Islamist, nationalist, liberal or military supporter - use Western countries as examples to justify the actions of the authority they approve of. However, when you use this same excuse to justify an opinion they disagree with, they say:

“Our country is different from Western countries,” or “each society has its circumstances,” or “we’re not like America.”

An Islamist uses this excuse when he defends democracy by saying its base is the majority, just like in the West. If you tell him that no matter how large this majority is in Western countries it cannot use religion to govern, he says: “What do we have to do with Western countries?”

Another example are those who support state repression because the West also rejects childish activities on the streets. These people say Western countries would eliminate anyone who attacks state prestige and state facilities. If you tell them that in the West people publicly mock the president, prime minster and government supporters, they tell you: “But we’re not like Western countries.”

Empty and lame

The excuse of Western countries is empty and lame, used to justify what is convenient, not what is right. If you want to prove this, bring up freedom of belief in the West. Everyone - whether an Islamist or Christian, or a hater of Islamists or Christians - will argue against that. Freedoms stop there, and to hell with Western countries.

At this point, another excuse linked to traditions and habits is adopted. You hear statements on how Egyptians are religious and conservative by nature. You hear how marketing freedom of belief aims to spread atheism and infidelity, and thus transform society into an evil and degraded one that resembles the West.

When you demand humane treatment of defendants at police stations, or when you demand respectful treatment of citizens in general - like in the West - they tell you: “We’re not like Western countries.” When media outlets talk about the West, all they mention is dispersing protests there, as if these are the only videos they could obtain, and as if there is nothing else worth mentioning about these countries.

Beginning with the media

Since we love Western countries so much, let us behave like them. Let us begin with the media. In October, “60 Minutes” - the oldest and most famous show in America - aired a report on the attack on the U.S. embassy in Benghazi in 2012. Correspondent Lara Logan interviewed a security contractor who claimed he was there when it was attacked. He came up with a very interesting story on what happened.

However, after the report was aired, it turned out that his account was false, and that Logan did not make enough effort to verify it. A scandal followed, Logan and a producer were suspended last week, and an apology was issued to viewers.

This is how the media operates in the West. However, media outlets here insult others and make baseless accusations against them. Despite this, no one demands the implementation of ethics in a manner that resembles Western countries.

Let us be frank with ourselves. We only like the West when it suits us. The only time we were honest when we brought up Western countries was in 2011, when some of us said: “If you don’t like the revolution, go to Canada.” In 2013, others responded: “If you don’t like ousting the Brotherhood, go to Qatar.”

When you start an argument with the sentence “in Western countries,” be prepared to finish it, because these countries that you use as examples are observing us and rolling on the floor laughing.

This article was first published in Egypt-based al-Shorouk on Dec. 3, 2013.


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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.