Egyptian political satirist Bassem Youssef, who is sometimes referred to as “the Jon Stewart of Egypt,” was recently arrested on charges of “insulting Islam” and belittling Egyptian president Mohammed Morsi. He has since been released on bail, but that did very little to curb the outrage of America’s Jon Stewart, who took on the issue last night with equal parts humor and pleas for sanity. (He also threw in a dash of “Unnecessary potshots at NBC and Smash,” which, as he accurately predicted, were music to this blogger’s ears.)
Political preference aside, let’s make one thing clear: Stewart is doing the Lord’s work here. Political satire is often dismissed by its opponents as “just comedy,” but being able to needle those in power is an important aspect of free speech, and free speech is the backbone of any legitimate democracy. It’s not so much the words people like Stewart and Youssef say that matter, it’s the fact that they can (or should be able to) say them without being hauled off to the hoosegow as soon as the cameras are off. That’s the point here.