04/03/2013, 00.00
EGYPT
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Bassem Youssef, an Egyptian Muslim satirist who gives voice to the Arab spring

Charged with insulting President Morsi and Islam as well as trying to undermine public order, the showman says that he will continue his show even though he could be jailed for it. For the satirist, the Muslim Brotherhood is like Mubarak, fascists who prefer to silence those who speak about problems rather than solving them.

Cairo (AsiaNews) - "Going to jail is a risk that we have to go through. But you know, with big shows and big programs comes creative responsibility and maybe bigger risks," Bassem Youssef recently told CNN. Yet, "I think this is actually the best time to have a political satire program in Egypt," he added. In fact, for the Muslim satirist, revolutions must follow their own course to give people the right to be heard.

His case has been front-page news around the world. After paying almost US$ 3,000 bail, Egypt's 'Jon Stewart of Egypt' has been accused of disrupting public order by Talaat Abdallah, an Islamist prosecutor general appointed in December by President Mohamed Morsi.

In the past, he saw democratic elections as a chance for change, and he continues "to believe in it". Unfortunately, in recent months the same behavior has been repeated as in Mubarak's old regime. There is no freedom of expression and the economy continues to deteriorate.

Bassem Youssef's career as a satirist began in February 2011 at the start of the Jasmine Revolution when he posted on youtube a video mocking President Mubarak and his cronies. In a few months, it went viral with a record five million visits.

For the 39-year-old, this was a spur to do more. After nine more sketches posted on the social medium, he had become the voice of the youth of the Arab Spring. Eventually, this landed him a TV show, el-Bernameg (the programme). By the second half of 2012, at the height of the anti- Muslim Brotherhood protest, it drew a record 30 million viewers.

Since then, he has become the target of lawsuits by Islamists and the courts. In late February of this year, he mocked s the president Morsi, 12 people filed a complaint against him. The case ended up on the desk of Prosecutor General Talaat Abdallah who issued a warrant for his arrest.

Youssef turned up at the courthouse wearing an oversized version of the hat worn by President Morsi when he received an honorary doctorate from a university in Pakistan in early March. 

In an interview with CNN, the satirist talked about his five hours of interrogation, saying that he was not against Islam because "because I'm a Muslim; I'm a practicing Muslim".

Despite his situation, he said that he was certain that people would continue to follow him. He lamented the fact that, rather than solve problems, Islamists want to shut up those who expose them. "They expect that people will remain silent. And they expect that people that will shut up. And that will not happen."

Asked if he feared for his life and his freedom, he said he was not worried "because I have not done anything to insult my religion. [. . .] there are some people who want to make it as if it is a fight or a struggle between secularists and Muslims. This is not true. [. . .] many people like me, who are practicing Muslims; they are moderate and they don't like the people who represents what they call political Islam."

"In a modern democratic country, those laws that can actually allow people to put other people into investigation and trial and jail because of accusation, like insulting the president or insulting a certain religion, is ridiculous. This is-these are actually the foundations of a fascist regime." (S.C.)

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