Last Update 22:51
Tuesday, 15 October 2019

Egypt's liberals are as intolerant as Islamists: Bassem Youssef

Renowned political satirist Bassem Youssef decries Egypt’s liberals for exhibiting the same far-right behaviour as their Islamist opponents

Ahram Online, Tuesday 29 Oct 2013
Bassem Youssef
Egyptian satirist Bassem Youssef during his episode on 25 October, 2013 (Photo courtesy of Youssef's official Facebook page)
Views: 8267
Views: 8267

Political satirist Bassem Youssef said Egypt’s liberals were as intolerant as their Islamist opponents, and as unwilling to accept criticism of themselves or the country's interim-authorities, in his weekly column in privately-owned daily Al-Shorouk on Tuesday.

“Those who defend liberalism and secularism say they are opposed to religious fanaticism and endorse freedom of opinion. However, when it suits them, they use Quranic verses and Hadiths [sayings of Prophet Mohamed] to justify attacks against their enemies, using the same accusations as religious movements,” Youssef said.

Youssef’s comments came as Cairo's Appeal Prosecution began looking into a complaint filed by the Muslim Youth Association’s legal adviser, charging Youssef with libel, slander, insulting Egypt and its people, and committing obscene acts in public.

After an almost three-month hiatus, Youssef returned to television on Friday, poking fun at ousted Islamist president Mohamed Morsi and the Muslim Brotherhood, as usual.

This time, however, in the premier episode of his weekly ‘Al-Bernameg’ (The Show)’s third season, he also targeted zealous followers of Army Chief General Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi.

The move was viewed by many as unacceptable amid increasing popular support for El-Sisi after the ouster of Mohamed Morsi by the military in July, following mass popular protests against his rule. 

By Saturday, at least four complaints had been filed with the country's top prosecutor, accusing Youssef of defaming the military in his show. One of the complaints accused Youssef of using phrases to "undermine the honour and dignity of Egypt and its people," allegedly sowing sedition and spreading lies.

Since Morsi’s overthrow, Egypt’s political life has been increasingly polarised between supporters of the deposed Islamist president and followers of the liberal-dominated interim authorities.

In his article, titled 'Egypt drifting towards the right,' Youssef drew comparisons between the American right and far-right and the Egyptian liberal current. “After the fall of the Brotherhood, we expected to enjoy all the benefits of the liberal heaven, both in the media and in power.”

“Instead, liberals who are proud of their proficiency in foreign languages, and of travelling abroad and following the latest Western fashions, believe conspiracy theories and spread them,” he wrote.

“They share [information] from far-right websites and believe Fox news, just because it attacks the Muslim Brotherhood, without realising that these conservatives despise them equally because they are Arabs,” he added.

The renowned satirist underlined the difficult position that those who oppose the Islamist and liberal camps find themselves in, as they are critiqued by both.

“Maybe there is a left and maybe there are liberals in Egypt, and maybe there are those who struggle for workers’ rights and for the oppressed and who fight for development programmes and social solidarity; they are cursed by both camps,” Youssef added. “If they are not considered infidels, they are traitors or agents who follow a Western-Zionist agenda.”

Youssef also expressed incomprehension regarding the lack of tolerance that he says has come to characterise Egypt’s liberals. “I can understand the intolerance of the religious movement and its penchant for the far-right. At the end of the day, that is their ideological stance, and... at least they are consistent with their beliefs,” he said.

“But I can’t understand a current that claims to defend liberalism and freedom but which, in the end, is less tolerant than the religious one. We [can] replace the beard with heavy make-up, the miswak [a traditional teeth-cleaning twig] with a glass of martini… but religious extremism and the political right are one and the same.”

Short link:


Ahram Online welcomes readers' comments on all issues covered by the site, along with any criticisms and/or corrections. Readers are asked to limit their feedback to a maximum of 1000 characters (roughly 200 words). All comments/criticisms will, however, be subject to the following code
  • We will not publish comments which contain rude or abusive language, libelous statements, slander and personal attacks against any person/s.
  • We will not publish comments which contain racist remarks or any kind of racial or religious incitement against any group of people, in Egypt or outside it.
  • We welcome criticism of our reports and articles but we will not publish personal attacks, slander or fabrications directed against our reporters and contributing writers.
  • We reserve the right to correct, when at all possible, obvious errors in spelling and grammar. However, due to time and staffing constraints such corrections will not be made across the board or on a regular basis.

30-10-2013 07:25am
So what is your point Bassam?
Tolerate terorrists, and watch the country go in flames?
Comment's Title
31-10-2013 08:10am
Sissi is the biggest terrorist right now
Morsi never did any thing like what fascist Sissi is doing right now.

Common sense
29-10-2013 10:26pm
Liberal Dictatorship
Egyptian Liberals are hypocrites. These Liberals can not win an open democratic election in Egypt, hence they support a secular military dictatorship that will impose their liberal agenda by force. Reminds me of the Liberals (leftists) in communist China and Soviet Union.
Comment's Title
01-11-2013 12:26am
Actually no liberal agenda
Actually, the reality is even worse for the liberals: they will support a military dictatorship that will impose a military and authoritarian agenda by force; there will be no liberal agenda included.

29-10-2013 09:21pm
Disagreement doesnt mean intolerance
Some people liked what was on his show, some people didnt! So, does being liberal mean that one has to like what Bassem Yousef says otherwise one will be perceived as intolerant?
Comment's Title
30-10-2013 01:11am
You're right you don't have to like what he says but
Being liberal means if you don't like it, change the channel, not file a lawsuit!

29-10-2013 07:23pm
liberals are race traitors
I agree with bassem youssef. Liberals are intolerant and suffer from a white complex of desiring to assimilate into the white power structure. They exploit and alien the egyptians. However, I don't think he should insult military officials because this is a position of prestige and is not allowed in any country or nation. But he can bag on anyone with blind loyalty and blind support of both camps. In any case, here's my argument for a cohesive nation and a functioning country. Egypt needs a purely secular structured democratic government but the government is not the nation. Differentiate between the country and the nation. It needs to strengthen the military role in protecting the national unity and the egyptian race which defines Egypt as a nation. The military gives us our beloved Pharaoh back. Islamic identity needs to be given more symbolic power. This means the judicial authorities need to be bounded by the islamic shariah interpreted by specialized azhar scholars. Al azhar needs to create a corporate body with organizational by-laws and include the muslim constituents. This is how it is done in America, when it comes to religious bodies with power. This will then implement shariah by-laws on muslims only but is bounded by the judicial authority and the rule of the laws of the land. This means that certain norms can be implemented by the organization however no ruling or verdict can be enforced except by the rule of law. All the laws need to go through judicial review to ensure it is in accord with the egyptian nation. It is time to rationally design a secular country with all the freedoms but an egyptian nation with powerful Islamic symbolic values. I suggest we completely forgo the arab identity, since we are linguistically arabic. Think more of an arabophone economic union similar to the European union.
Comment's Title

Michal Goldman
29-10-2013 05:53pm
A brave man with a working compass
Thank you for this article. Bassem Youssef is a brave man. As such, he's a national treasure.
Comment's Title

© 2010 Ahram Online.