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Egyptian satirist Bassem Youssef receives arrest warrant for– guess what?


Bassem Youssef, who produced a popular television show modeled on “The Daily Show”, was informed Saturday that he needs to go to a police station to answer for the warrant, charging him with insulting President Morsi and denigrating Islam. He said that he would probably go on Sunday, the first day of the workweek in Egypt.  He mentioned that they could save him the transportation if they would just come and pick him up.   Apparently, the police have been watching Mr Youssef for some time and had appointed a judge to investigate the complaints against him.  The new government of Egypt has been suppressing dissent with the same brutality as the old government.  Just last week, five anti-Islamist activists were arrested on charges of inciting violence against the Muslim Brotherhood.

The television show that Mr Youssef produced had been the subject of numerous complaints by Islamists who were offended by his references to Mr Morsi and the followers of the Muslim Brotherhood.  This is the first time, however, that a public prosecutor has issued an arrest warrant.  No doubt this signals the end of Mr Youssef’s weekly TV show.  He has had a wild ride with conservatives, even reconciling with some of them, but has made many enemies among the Salafists.

At the same time, Egypt is facing an intense shortage of diesel fuel and many critical items such as wheat for bread, which is imported.  Locally grown wheat is poor quality and is mixed with imported wheat to make an edible bread.  The shortages stem from Egypt’s economic collapse over the last two years.  Tourism has dwindled to nothing, and reserves are collapsing.  The Europeans are negotiating a loan which may perhaps be more realistically seen as a grant in aid.  There are systemic issues that make these chaotic conditions inevitable.

Right now, the Supreme Court of Egypt has nullified some of the election laws and new laws must be written.  The Legislature, however, is in recess and President Morsi thinks he is better off waiting.  At the same time, someone must sign off on the tax increases and other painful measures demanded as part of the European “loan.”

The apparently unreasonable behavior of the people in this crisis situation is inevitable and events will continue to unfold regardless of what the people do.  There are too many people, and this is creating a strain on resources that radiates through-out the system.  The strains are manifest as food shortages, fuel shortages, interpersonal violence, migration, and collapse of government.

Egypt would benefit if they had a better leadership but there is so much complicated overlay in the present system that little can be done constitutionally.  The Court system is full of leftovers from the previous autocratic administration who interfere with government action at every turn.  Now, in a “free” election for President, the Egyptian electorate has been forced to choose between a known Islamist and a lackey of the previous administration.  The Constitution is hurriedly revised, with solo input from Islamist sources.  The only effective behavior at present seems to be to negotiate loans.  Elections are difficult when the Court invalidates all the election law.

Egypt is dependent for its survival as a coherent nation state on the assistance of external organizations.  We, the United States, and many other nations, must step in and provide assistance where it is most needed.

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