— Ikhwanweb (@Ikhwanweb) April 2, 2013
The Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood, whose Freedom and Justice Party is the most powerful in Egypt and is allied with President Mohamed Morsi, posted a message from its official Twitter feed late Tuesday that linked approvingly to a video that suggests Jews control the U.S. media. The tweet appeared to be a dig at Jon Stewart, the host of the "Daily Show," who recently aired a searing segment criticizing Morsi for his government's imprisonment of a popular TV host and political satirist named Bassem Youssef.
The Arabic-language video, a clip from the Islamist-friendly TV network al-Jazeera Arabic, is actually from 2010. It focuses on a spat between Stewart, who is Jewish, and former CNN host Rick Sanchez. Sanchez was fired for alleging that Jews control the media and for criticizing Stewart, calling him "bigoted" and suggesting that, as a Jew, Stewart does not belong to an authentic minority group. The al-Jazeera Arabic segment suggests that American media have a double standard in which Jews are afforded special privileges and their critics silenced. It also backs Sanchez's insinuation that Jews control the media and suggests that they enforce this double standard.
Here's the back-story: Over the weekend, Egyptian authorities arrested Youssef, the satirist who had criticized Morsi and the Muslim Brotherhood, on charges of "insulting Islam" and the president. He has since been released on bail but is still facing charges. Youssef is frequently compared to Stewart -- a label he has embraced -- and the two are friends. So, on Monday, Stewart ran two segments on Youssef's arrest, portraying Morsi as "petty" and comparing him to former president Hosni Mubarak.
The "Daily Show" treatment did not go unnoticed in at least some quarters of the Egyptian government. The official Twitter feed of the president's office (distinct from Morsi's own official account) criticized the U.S. Embassy for tweeting a link to the "Daily Show" clip, calling it "negative political propaganda." The same Muslim Brotherhood official Twitter feed that sent out the al-Jazeera video also criticized the U.S. Embassy for the move, saying, "Another undiplomatic & unwise move by @USEmbassyCairo, taking sides in an ongoing investigation & disregarding Egyptian law & culture." The feed has fiercely defended Youssef's arrest.
It's not entirely clear, but the implication of the Brotherhood's latest tweet appears to be that Stewart is hypocritical for criticizing the government's arrest of Youssef. It implies that the Egyptian satirist's perceived crimes are akin to those of Rick Sanchez, and that, therefore, if Sanchez's firing was justified, then so is Youssef's imprisonment.
Of course, if I'm reading that correctly, which I admittedly might not be -- the Brotherhood feed is not always crystal clear -- then it doesn't make a whole lot of sense. Firing someone from CNN is not the same as locking him up in prison, of course. And it's not clear that Youssef, who is Muslim himself, has said anything nearly as inflammatory as Sanchez did. And, finally, the video seems to suggest that Sanchez was wrongly fired. So, by its own logic, wouldn't Youssef's imprisonment also be wrong?
Of course, the Brotherhood feed is probably not trying to make a nuanced argument so much as to taunt Stewart, in part by drawing attention to the fact that he is Jewish, and deflect criticism of Morsi's government for arresting a prominent and respected critic. Meanwhile, Egyptian authorities have threatened to revoke the broadcasting license of the TV station that hosts Youssef's show. The government, it seems, is really digging in on this one.