The plight of Bassem Youssef, the Egyptian TV host known as “The Jon Stewart of the Arab World”, has become something of a political hot potato between the U.S. and Egypt. Youssef was called in for questioning over the weekend on accusations that he had insulted President Mohamed Morsi and the Islamic faith, leading U.S. State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland to comment that the warrant for Youssef’s arrest was “evidence of a disturbing trend of growing restrictions on the freedom of expression.” Egypt’s Freedom and Justice Party has condemned her “imprudent” remarks, which it says “constitute a hasty, blatant interference in Egypt’s internal affairs.” Three lawsuits have been brought against Youssef for content of his Daily Show-like satirical news magazine The Program, and a further accusation of disturbing the public order was brought on Monday. The Program is watched by about 30M Middle East viewers on satellite channel CBC, which has also been warned that because of the show, it may be in violation of the terms of its license. Youssef told CNN’s Christiane Amanpour that he and Stewart had been corresponding since the weekend’s events — Stewart defended his friend on The Daily Show on Monday night. The Egyptian host is not going to let the pending cases affect his work, however. He told Amanpour, “It is the best time to have a political satire show in Egypt because everything that’s happening around us is surreal. If you don’t make fun of it, you just wither away and die, that’s your only option.”
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