In the early days of American democracy, you could always count on Benjamin Franklin for a good political joke to put things into perspective. In the early days of Egypt's democracy, you've got Bassem Youssef. He's been called the "Egyptian Jon Stewart." The former heart surgeon, shot to fame during Egypt's revolution in 2011 after he posted videos on YouTube lampooning political figures. And those videos paved the way for a TV show with millions of viewers. But over the weekend Bassem Youssef saw what happens when he thinks he's funny, but the Egyptian government does not. A warrant was issued, and Youssef was questioned by authorities for a few hours before being released on bail. The comedian allegedly insulted Islam and President Mohammed Morsi. "I don't have any personal vendettas against anyone," Youssef responded. "On the contrary it would be an honor for me to host any of those I criticize on my show it would be a success for myself and also a success for freedom of thought and expression as it would send a message to the people that they, the Muslim Brotherhood, are in power. They accept criticism and that once they leave the show I would still criticize them. This happens all over the world so why can't it be for us?" That is a key question, not just in Egypt, but also in other Arab Spring countries — like Tunisia and Libya — where revolutions have toppled long-standing rulers. Michael Wahid Hanna, a fellow at The Century Foundation, says "Egypt is perhaps unique in the proliferation of legal measures that are very clearly aimed at stifling speech, expression and dissent."
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