Egypt’s secularists repeating Islamists’ mistakes

Editor’s Note: Bassem Youssef is the host of “The Program” and “America in Arabic.” Dubbed the “Jon Stewart of the Arab world,” he was named one of the “100 Most Influential People in the World” by Time magazine. He tweets at @DrBassemYoussef.

Story highlights

Bassem Youssef warns against the "victory high' some feel after Morsy's ouster

Youssef: Some of the anti-Morsy forces are just as objectionable as the Islamists

There seems to be no home in Egypt right now for those with moderate views, Youssef says

CNN  — 

Congratulations, everyone: We’ve finally got rid of the Muslim Brotherhood forever. What a burden off our shoulders!

Finally, we will have a Muslim Brotherhood-less Egypt. It’s only a matter of days until the Muslim Brotherhood’s members are rounded up in jail once again, and Egypt’s normal state is restored. That normal state, where people look good without beards or veils, those “good-looking people” we see on TV. Egypt will finally be a free, liberal country. Good riddance, Islamists.

What’s that? Some Muslim Brotherhood members died at the Republican Guard headquarters? And why were they there in the first place? Aren’t you glad this happened to them? Why aren’t you gloating? You must be a Brotherhood supporter! You must be an enemy of the military and the state and probably work as a part-time terrorist!

No. I support the demonstrations that started on June 30th and saw that former president Mohamed Morsy was unfit to be president, but that doesn’t deny the fact that I believe there needs to be a thorough investigation into the events at the Republican Guard headquarters, that I’d like to know how long the Islamists’ TV channels will be closed; and that I find the private media to be full of discrimination and inciting rhetoric.

No, no, critics might say: you’re being soft! Keep your human rights to yourself. These people can only be dealt with violently. We have to purge the country of these people.

Bassem Youssef

The above is a reflection of the state of mind of many who are on a “victory high,” or so they imagine themselves to be. The fascist nature of those people is no different than that of the Islamists who think that their enemies’ disappearance off this planet would be a victory for the religion of God. But those on this victory high consider themselves to be different; they justify their fascism for the “good of the country.” These people with their liberal values and reverence for freedom differ very little from radical preacher Khaled Abdullah, who was infamous for his favorite quote: “May God relieve us of you and your likes (the liberals).”

I do not trust or believe the Muslim Brotherhood. We have witnessed from experience that they do not keep their word and lie time and again, as long as it serves their political agenda. They have their means of manipulating religion and justifying their actions so long as it serves their politics.

Yes, the Muslim Brotherhood has done all of this and more; and for that, Morsy deserved to be protested against by the masses, and his organization deserved the abhorrence and repulsion towards them from the people. The senior Brotherhood leaders need to undergo investigation on charges of inciting violence, as well as their shady international relations. This is the legal and political course that needs to take place.

I could write volumes on the lack of intelligence on the part of the Brotherhood and their corruption of both religion and politics, but that is another battle that requires different tools. We are losing this battle before it has even begun: those who claim to be freedom fighters and have been denouncing the fascism and discrimination of the Brotherhood are now contributing to the building of sympathy towards them. They are a disgrace to the principles of freedom they claim to stand for.

We are returning par excellence to the atmosphere of the 90s when we settled for “the security option” and the media corruption and let the chests rage with a fire of hatred and allowed extremism to deepen day after day. I do believe that shutting down the Islamist channels was an important decision during a sensitive period, but I’m now calling for their return. Let them talk as they wish; it has only served to make people hate and be repulsed by them. Do not give them the chance to play the victim. What are you afraid of? Of their discriminatory media rhetoric? Or of their public political stupidity?

My dear anti-Brotherhood liberal, allow me to remind you that just a few weeks ago you were desperately complaining about how grim the future looked, but now that you have been “relieved” of them you have become a carbon copy of their fascism and discrimination. You could respond by saying that they deserve it, that they supported the security forces and used them to overpower you, to cheat and spread rumors and widen sectarian strife. But is that really your argument? Have you made of their lowly ways a better alternative for you than abiding by the principles you have stood by for so long? They lost their moral compass a long time ago. Do you want to follow suit?

Don’t you see that by inciting violence towards Palestinians and Syrians you are exactly like them, when they incite violence towards the Shi’is, the Baha’is, the Christians, and the other Muslims who opposed the Brotherhood? We have replaced the “enemies of Islam” scarecrow with the “enemies of the state” scarecrow. The ideas, approaches and appearances have disappeared, and all that remains are fascism and discrimination that unite us over hatred, rather than reconcile our prejudices.

Take the leaders of the Brotherhood to court and investigate the events at the Republican Guard headquarters. Ensure the autonomy of justice whether the victims are from your camp or the other’s. Demand a clear framework within which all political parties are to operate, so that no party can ever spread such discriminatory, sectarian rhetoric again. Yes, the leaders of the Brotherhood must be tried just as the leaders of the National Democratic Party were tried in the case of provision of enough evidence and within the limits of the law.

But remember you will never be able to erase the existence of those thousands off the face of the Earth. You will not be able arrest those thousands and their families and children, and you will not be able to prevent them from winning syndicate elections. All you’re currently doing is repeating their past mistakes by turning a blind eye to those thousands, but you are only burying a living truth that will come back to hit you, or the coming generations, in the face.

Kudos to those who have not allowed the “victory high” to rob them of their humanity; to those few who are currently isolated by everyone else and are not welcome in either camp unless they go with the current flow of hatred and gloating.

Humanity has now become an isolated island among wild waves of discrimination and extremism. On this island live those isolated few, their voices fading in the midst of the roaring cries for vengeance and murder. I’m not optimistic about a population increase on that island anytime soon. But maybe in the future people will migrate to it and try to get to know this thing called humanity that we’ve all been stripped of.

What I fear most is if a time comes when we pass by that island and cry in dismay: “Alas, nobody lives there anymore.”

This is an edited version of an article that was first published in Al-Shorouk newspaper in Egypt on July 16 in Arabic and was translated by Nadine H. Hafez at Bassem Youssef’s request for the website Tahrir Squared.

The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Bassem Youssef.