Egyptians should be free to say ‘no’

Is the new constitutional referendum a great step forward in Egypt’s democratic path?

Bassem Youssef
Bassem Youssef
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I don’t understand why news on arresting this person or that person angers some people in Egypt. Gather everyone in the jails as long as it serves the country’s interest! As long as this achieves stability and safety, who are we to object? Don’t you think so too? (I am just voicing my support of this from the very beginning, so as to avoid problems bigger than me.)

Therefore, it’s “okay” if we arrest someone for flashing four fingers or if we arrest an elementary student because he has a yellow ruler, a reminder of the pro-Muslim Brotherhood Rabaa sign. It’s true that whoever is following up on this news from outside Egypt would be surprised and wonder how a hand signal can worry an entire country and mobilize all their security forces. But whatever, we don’t care about what people think!

It’s true that our television channels provide immediate English subtitles and that our governments send delegations to visit Europe and America. And it’s also true that we speak with their officials day and night to convince them that we are nice and good people. But despite that, ignore those Western voices, because they’re “conspiring against us” and let us arrest everyone who flashes a sign which we made significant in the first place.

By the way, speaking of the yellow sign, many of my educated friends on Facebook loathe the Brotherhood so much but as you know stubbornness has its ways, so as to object to army chief Gen. Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, they’ve set the Rabaa sign as their profile pictures. A little stubbornness and recklessness is okay. But anyway, I am willing to report them all to the authorities if this would serve stability and help the country move forward.

Doesn’t the democratic process aim to contain all parties and let whoever agrees voices his opinion and whoever opposes do the same and in the end we adopt the opinion of the majority?

Bassem Youssef

Speaking of stability, some of the news I’ve read during the past few days has really comforted me. See, security forces arrested four students in the Minya governorate over the accusation of hanging up posters reading: “No to the constitution.” Others were also arrested in Cairo over the accusation of distributing fliers also reading: “No to the constitution.”

Truth is, this is considered a great step in the democratic path in which we all harmonize with one another. How dare anyone say no to the constitution? All channels are currently saying that anyone who objects to the constitution is a traitor and “an agent.” If posters reading “yes to the constitution” and signed by people who love Egypt are distributed, then if you say “no,” you will certainly be someone who hates Egypt. And therefore, you are certainly a traitor. Who dares place themselves in the grouping of traitors? If there’s no room in this category, then there’s always vacancy in that of accusations of infidelity.

Don’t say no

We have a dignified scholar telling us that the constitution “satisfies God and his Prophet.” He knows better of course. There are several dignified scholars issuing fatwas (religious edicts) stating that whoever who says no to the constitution is a sinner according to Shariah law.

Oh God, where have I heard this statement before?

The same people who objected to exploiting children at the Brotherhood’s protests are the ones making children from orphanages sing in support of the constitution during this cold weather.

The Salafist al-Nour Party is perfectly performing its role of cheering for anyone in power. It doesn’t matter if it’s the Brotherhood, interim Prime Minister Hazem el-Beblawi, Sisi or interim President Adly Mansour. It makes no difference to them. They think that this constitution will elevate Islamic Shariah, although all the articles which they backed and which the Brotherhood included in the 2012 constitution for their sake have been dropped.

State of hysteria

Quite honestly, there’s no real enmity between me and the constitution. On the contrary, I really hope that this constitution “passes” so we get over it. If this happens, then we will perhaps end the country’s current state of hysteria. Perhaps the media will finally rest and authority will be reassured once we have a new constitutional legitimacy where whoever wants to speak can speak and whoever doesn’t like it can bang his head against a wall.

But this frenzy we’re seeing and these accusations of treason against those who have different opinions must end. I don’t understand how you can market the concept of democracy and then arrest those who says no to the constitution. Then why did we print out ballots with “yes” and “no” boxes? Let’s print ones with “yes” and “definitely yes.”

Many believe the referendum on the constitution is a referendum on Sisi for president. Say no if you’re man enough!

The media has linked voting “yes” to the constitution to Sisi’s popularity and the extent of the voter’s love for the army and loyalty to their country. It’s a two-for-one offer, and if you’re a man enough, say no.


If this doesn’t stir something inside you, then you should know there’s a limited offer, sponsored by al-Azhar and al-Nour Party, to add “the maintenance of Islamic Shariah” to the combo.

If you have nothing to do with this path, and if you want to be immediately blessed or damned, then the church promises you that voting “yes” on the constitution will bring blessings to Egypt. I guarantee that.

Perhaps my understanding of democracy is not sophisticated. But doesn’t the democratic process aim to contain all parties and let whoever agrees voices his opinion and whoever opposes do the same and in the end we adopt the opinion of the majority? If the constitution is marvelous and Sisi enjoys massive popularity, then how does it harm you if a very small percentage says no?

My understanding of the June 30 revolution may also not be experienced, but didn’t the Egyptian people carry it out in order to liberate the political decision from religious blackmail and to allow all citizens to agree or disagree with something without being accused of infidelity or treason?

The problem of choice

I watched this prominent politician say that Sisi must run for presidency so we don’t end up having several candidates. Is this possible? How so? To end up with several candidates where we are confronted with a yes/no question and forced to go to the elections to...I am sorry but I have to say it, to choose!? Oh yes, to choose! Oh god, this word is hideous: “choose.”

Gentlemen, I am not announcing my rejection of the constitution (it’s easier to go with the safest choice), and as you see I am announcing my approval of it without any fear or worry whatsoever (none at all!). But I wish authorities and the media would have kept a very small space for those who wanted to say no. I mean, there shouldn’t be these detentions, insults, accusations of treason and so. If it’s really complicated, then we could have saves the state a lot of money spent to pay off expenses for polling stations and colored ballots.

This article was first published in al-Shorouk on Jan. 14, 2014.

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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