- (PHOTO:Twitter/Bassem Youssef)
"The Daily Show" host Jon Stewart stirred up international controversy when he mocked Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi earlier this week, forcing the U.S. Embassy in Cairo to temporarily shut down its Twitter account on Wednesday and delete a tweet linking to the satirist's comments.
Stewart, who regularly takes aims at world leaders, including U.S. President Barack Obama, targeted Morsi on his Monday show for the arrest of Egyptian satirist Bassam Youssef, who has appeared on "The Daily Show" before and is seen almost as Stewart's counterpart in Egypt for poking fun at politics.
Youssef was arrested for making fun of Islam and President Morsi last week on his TV program, something which Stewart said was undemocratic and petty. He showed an older clip of Morsi promising that he will not go after those who criticize or mock him and reminded viewers that Morsi himself regularly insults Jewish people.
"The Zionists, these bloodsuckers, these warmongers, the descendents of apes and pigs," Morsi said on state T.V. on Sept. 23, 2010.
The U.S. Embassy in Cairo linked to Stewart's criticism on its Twitter account on Wednesday but was forced by Egyptian authorities to shut down their account, and restore it only after the link was removed.
"It's inappropriate for a diplomatic mission to engage in such negative political propaganda," the Twitter account of the Morsi administration said, commentating on the issue.
State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland suggested that the Cairo embassy might have made an error in judgment by linking to Stewart, given the sensitive nature of the situation.
"Embassies and consulates and their senior leadership manage the content that is on their feeds and they are expected to use good policy judgment in doing that," Nuland said, according to The Association Press.
"I can't speak to the decision to re-tweet Jon Stewart to start with," she added. "But Jon Stewart is a comedy show in the U.S., as you know. It is publicly available content."
She, however, agreed that there was a "disturbing trend" of growing restrictions on freedom of expression in Egypt. Youssef is only one of several people to be arrested for criticizing the government in recent times.
"There does not seem to be an evenhanded application of justice here," said Nuland, whose comments were blasted as "blatant inference" by the Muslim Brotherhood's Freedom and Justice.
Egypt was one of the many countries to undergo an "Arab spring" uprising in the past couple of years. Its former regime was toppled and the population went to the polls to elect a new president and new political system. Although both Morsi and the Muslim Brotherhood repeatedly stressed that they would protect the rights of individuals should they be selected as leaders, the country is going through prolonged period of turmoil, with food and fuel prices putting it in deep economic crisis.
"Raising the prices will get us this loan," said Mosaad el Dabe, an Egyptian father referring to negotiations over a $4.8 billion International Monetary Fund loan for Cairo. "But when they raise the prices on the poor, how do we live, how do we eat?"