Bassam Youssef, “Egypt’s answer to Jon Stewart”, takes to Al Arabiya TV to lament the way Islamic TV shows seem to lose their way once they get past their introductions. Once they get the obligatory Quranic recitation out of the way, the floodgates are open to malicious gossip, always couched in phrases to avoid legal actions against libel. Nothing is sacrosanct: they’ll impugn an opponent’s sexuality, his family, his mother… anything to score points.
Youssef wonders if this is really “Islamic”, or even if it’s entertaining. What it unmistakeably is, though, is politics.
The Islamic gossip show
When you watch the so-called Islamic channels, you realize you are confronting a new type of media in Egypt. It is, as they say,conservative and religious media aiming to put people on the right path. You can tell this by watching the first few seconds of a show’s introduction, which is void of music as it is forbidden. Instead, they use human voices that are digitally altered. Then a sheikh appears and begins to calmly read Quranic verses.
However, it is only a few minutes before the atmosphere changes entirely. Following a thoughtful religious introduction, the host and his guests engage in a conversation that may last until dawn, gossiping and discussing affairs linked to people’s reputations.
They may go as far as spreading rumors against their political rivals. They use expressions such as “I was told”, “someone told me,” or “someone swore to me” that “this man is gay, that man’s wife, daughter and mother did this and that.” It seems that talking about people’s reputations is their favorite spicy topic. Why talk about someone’s actions and statements when you can talk about his wife, mother and daughter?
These people claim to possess spiritual, moral and religious superiority. If you have lost your moral sense, how can you claim that you are here to guide people towards virtuous morals when your communication skills have descended to a level lower than that of your opponents? Is this the Islamic media you preach about? Is this the Islamic society you are teaching about? Is that it? Gossiping and mocking? How is this any different than the immoral programs you attack?