Why The Egyptian Government Is Terrified By The 'Jon Stewart Of Egypt'

Robert Johnson/Business InsiderBassam Youssef. Larger than life.More than two years after Egyptians received a new president there is mass dissatisfaction with the government. There is additional frustration that anyone who challenges may challenge him lacks a formula for change.

One man though could have the power, money and the plan to prove a real threat to the Muslim Brotherhood’s grip on the country.

Bassem Youssef, rivets Egyptians to TV’s in cafes, coffe shops, and homes once a week and Saturday March 30, a warrant was issued for his arrest.

Youssef is a cardiothoracic surgeon who went from posting political satire on YouTube to the country’s most famous and perhaps most well-paid talk show host.

He’s been on CNN, ABC, and the Jon Stewart show. Youssef is known around the world for being the “Jon Stewart of Egypt ” and his show called: “The Show” is immensely popular and persuasive. But Youssef is a Jon Stewart under a government that’s arresting critics and one that’s gauging the weight of any possible competitors to its unexpected new power.

The Muslim Brotherhood won the popular election here in June last year with 52 per cent of the vote, and has lowered the country’s standard of living, it’s economy, and its tolerance for opposition consistently ever since.

Bassam Youssef

There are many here who believe the Muslim Brotherhood will not allow scheduled presidential elections and will do anything it takes to maintain their power. 

People I spoke with Saturday after Youssef’s arrest warrant was announced, including a police officer and the show’s director, believe this is the government testing the public response should they actually put him in prison.

Youssef has the money and the ability to convey a clear message to the Egyptians on how he might solve their current economic and political crisis. That plan is something that’s notably lacking from other members of the opposition who largely voice complaints over existing circumstances rather than offering solutions to fix them.

Director Bassam Youssef ShowThe Show’s director

Youssef’s show is filmed Wednesday just blocks from my hotel and my first night here the crowds surrounding the theatre were massive. On Friday, when the show was aired, I was trying to get photos made for some Egyptian press credentials and couldn’t get anyone to move until the show broke for commercial.

Those commercials were for very high profile products like Pepsi and provide the CBC satellite station that airs the show immense revenue.

Through my translator we applied online for tickets to next Wednesday’s taping and among the questions required to apply for one of 200 seats are:

  • A Twitter handle
  • Whether one believes the revolution was a success
  • An opinion on the revolution
  • Had the applicant joined in clashes with police or the government
  • A favourite cartoon, among: Family Guy, South Park, The Simpson’s, and Tom and Jerry
  • A favourite TV show, among: Friends, Seinfeld, Frasier, Two and a Half Men, and How I Met Your Mother
  • And, if Youssef ran for president what would be his “logo”: the scales of justice, a duck, or a green leafy vegetable called Greer

Two-hundred-and-50 thousand people a week apply for those 200 hundred seats and I’m waiting on the director to get me in and hopefully talk to Youssef, after his visit to the courthouse today.

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