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Can Stewart Save Egypt?

The U.S. has a national interest in not letting its people be threatened with death for conduct that is speech-related

Egyptian Comedian Baseem Youssef (youtube)

Here are two simple facts about Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi and his Islamist, Muslim Brotherhood (MB)-led Egyptian regime: 1) they have no sense of humor; and 2) they really dislike Jews. And in the Middle East, when you put these two facts together, things can get just a little crazy, as they did at the end of last month.

On March 31, 2013, Bassem Youssef, an Egyptian television comedian, was arrested in Cairo, for the alleged crime of “insulting the president (i.e., Morsi)” and “insulting Islam.”  This arrest by the MB regime prompted the U.S. government to finally discover the need to promote free speech in Egypt.  U.S. State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland criticized the Egyptian government for enabling a “disturbing trend of growing restrictions on freedom of expression.”  Her boss, Secretary of State John Kerry, also weighed in, stating that there are “very real” concerns about the direction in which the MB’s government is headed and that the U.S. “hope(s) that there is still time to be able to turn the corner,” although “the recent arrests, the violence in the streets, the lack of inclusivity with respect to the opposition in public ways that make a difference to the people of Egypt, are all of concern today.”   

None of this seemed to prompt much of a response from Morsi or the MB.

But then the “big guns” came out.  On his Comedy Central cable television show, American comedian Jon Stewart – who is Jewish – belittled Morsi and the MB regime for their prosecution of Youssef.  Youssef and Stewart are close; in fact, you could say that Youssef is a protégé of Stewart’s. To make matters even worse, from the Islamist point of view, a link to Stewart’s skit was tweeted by the U.S. Embassy in Cairo for all Egyptians to see.  No doubt visions of a Zionist Jew-controlled America, acting through its Egyptian Zionist agents, danced in MB heads.

Immediately, President Morsi and his cronies swung into action. Officially, the Egyptian Presidential office merely complained that Stewart show was “negative political propaganda” and the Embassy’s tweet of it was “inappropriate for a diplomatic mission to engage in.” Meanwhile, unofficially, the MB posted an anti-Semitic link online, in Arabic, from Al Jazeera, in which former CNN host Rick Sanchez claimed that Jews control the American media. Also, a “usually moderate” senior MB member argued that Western notions of free speech were being used to defame Islam.

In response, Washington, and the U.S. Embassy in Cairo, completely caved. The Embassy’s Twitter account was temporarily deleted , and when the account was reinstated, the tweet of the Stewart segment had been removed.  Spokeswoman Nuland was now trotted out to say that the Stewart-linked “tweet was a mistake and new regulations were being put into place” to prevent any further insult to the MB.

None of this should surprise anyone by now. The U.S. has had several earlier opportunities to support free speech, in Egypt and in the West, and at each time they have failed to stand up for speech. Most importantly, the U.S. could have, and should have, vociferously complained about the decision by the Egypt Islamist regime to convict in absentia seven Egyptian Coptic Christians – most of them U.S. residents – and a Florida-based American pastor/U.S. citizen, and sentence all of these individuals to death on charges linked to the film “Innocence of Muslims.”

Regardless of your view of the particular speech put forward by Terry Jones and the others, for another nation, especially a so-called “ally” of the U.S. that receives billions of U.S. foreign aid, to threaten death to U.S. based persons for their speech is beyond the pale.  (It should be noted, by the way, that Jones and several of those other individuals actually had nothing to do with the film in question.)

The U.S. has a national interest in not letting its people be threatened with death for conduct that is speech-related, and not a crime within the U.S. Also, the U.S. could and should have been a lot more upset about the Islamist Egyptian storming of our Embassy in Cairo, which was allowed by the MB regime, supposedly because of the film mentioned above.  But in neither case did the Obama Administration act.

Perhaps Jon Stewart is made of stronger stuff. I hope Stewart will continue to “provoke” the MB in Egypt with his comedy show. MB-controlled Egypt is defiantly heading on the wrong path, with its attempts to undermine Gulf Arab states, its police participation in attacks on its Christian minority, its promotion of anti-Semitism, its alliance with genocidal governments, and its recently revealed plan to stack the bureaucracy in Egypt with its own minions.  The Obama Administration is doing nothing to stop it, or even to convince it to reverse course.

Maybe the time is right for a Jon Stewart-led revolution in Egypt?  At the very least, having a “descendent of apes and pigs” leading the charge will drive Mohammed Morsi and the Egyptian MB absolutely crazy.

Adam Turner serves as staff counsel to the Endowment for Middle East Truth (EMET).  He is a former counsel to the Senate Judiciary Committee where he focused on national security law.

 

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