In Egypt, your empathy alone is enough

Bassem Youssef
Bassem Youssef
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In some sort of excessive selfishness, Egyptians are tending to see as victims only those with whom they sympathize. For example, if you voice your anger over the verdict to imprison the Alexandria Girls (they were later acquitted), a friend will send you a photo of the Kardasa soldiers who were unjustly killed and tell you: “If you’re sad over this verdict, then remember those soldiers.”

If you express your grief over the killing of soldiers in Sinai, Muslim Brotherhood pages on social networking websites will publish photos of the dispersal of the Rabia sit-in and tell you: “If you’re sad over those soldiers, remember the protestors who were killed first.”

"Mutual hatred is expected among political rivals, but this hatred has found its way to ordinary people. There is no mercy or empathy towards other human beings."

Bassem Yousef

National security officer Mohammed Mabrouk gets killed in a terrorist ambush, and instead of praying for mercy over his soul - since he is a human being - some rush to publish photos and names of those killed by Interior Ministry gunfire. It is as if Mabrouk is responsible for all those martyrs.

Turning the tables

The issue is not limited to reminding us of who was killed. It has turned into exploitation of these victims in order to end any attempt to sympathize with others. You cannot voice your opinion about anything without the Brotherhood reminding you of Rabia.

Some used to think that former President Mohamed Mursi’s legitimacy ended when protestors were killed by the apparatus run by his interior minister. However, now they consider those protesting against the same interior minister as traitors and thugs. TV channels described those who took to the streets against Mursi as “protestors,” and those killed as “martyrs.” Now, demonstrators “deserve murder.”

What we are witnessing is not mere enmity or rivalry between parties. For example, now I cannot express my anger over the killing of a university student, or over the imprisonment of young girls because they held balloons bearing the Rabaa sign, without reminding you that I hate the Brotherhood and that it is a terrorist group, or without recalling the victims of terrorism. Mutual hatred is expected among political rivals, but this hatred has found its way to ordinary people. There is no mercy or empathy towards other human beings.

Meanwhile, the Brotherhood thinks there is nothing to grieve about other than Rabaa. To them, anyone who dies today is paying the price for Rabaa. The tragedy has been exploited in every single way.

Dehumanizing tragedies

You are not allowed to grieve or sympathize with others without presenting proof that you have the same political and intellectual beliefs, otherwise your grief will be rejected. Let us be frank. You do not see any reason to sympathize with anyone who disagrees with you. That is your business, but to deny others the right to sympathize with those killed, imprisoned or persecuted means you not only reject mercy, but prevent others from showing it.

There is no denying that there is severe polarization in Egyptian society, but what is happening is not polarization, it is playing dumb. Murder has turned into a mere number, and detainees are a necessity for national security. Each party is arrogant towards the other, as it considers its victims to be purer and more honorable than other parties’ victims.

You do not need to justify your sadness over those killed. You do not have to clarify that you are also sad over other victims before you voice your sadness over the murder of a certain person. Your rejection of killing hundreds in Rabia does not contradict your anger over the killing of soldiers and policemen by terrorists.

Your grief over your friends killed in Rabia and in front of the Republican Guards headquarters must not turn you into a monster void of feelings and unmoved by the killing of children whose only mistake was attending a wedding in a church.

Amid this madness, I am not asking you to alter your political stance or decrease your intolerance towards a certain party. All I am asking for is your empathy.

This article was first published in Egypt-based al-Shorouk on Dec. 10, 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.
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