Saturday,24 March, 2018
Current issue | Issue 1137, 28 February - 6 March 2013
Saturday,24 March, 2018
Issue 1137, 28 February - 6 March 2013

Ahram Weekly

‘Send Morsi to the moon’

If the president won’t step down, he could still be sent to the moon for want of other options

Al-Ahram Weekly

Last Friday, President Mohamed Morsi was rated number one among the contenders in a contest designed to send people to the moon as part of a promotional campaign for the Axe company, reports Dina Ezzat.

 The men’s personal care product company has teamed up with famed US moonwalker Buzz Aldrin to send 22 people into space and make sure they smell nice doing it.

On 9 January, the company kicked off its new Axe Apollo Space Academy, an online contest that promises to send 22 winners to the edge of space and back on a private spacecraft.

The initiative to include Morsi’s name in the contest was taken by the 6 April Movement, an opposition movement of younger men and women that has been active since 2006 when it called for a day of civil disobedience on 6 April.

The initiative to send Morsi to the moon was intense and the response was wide enough to secure Morsi number one spot last Friday, 22 February, in a competition that was also joined by mountain climbers and worldwide travellers.

The contest’s administrators later removed Morsi’s name, some say at the initiative of the company with others suggesting that it was in response to a request from the Egyptian authorities.

Mohamed Khaled of the 6 April Movement told Al-Ahram Weekly that “it really does not matter much how Morsi’s name was removed because even if he had won he would not have gone to the moon. We knew we could not literally send him to the moon, but at least we sent him a clear message that we don’t like his economic and political policies and we want him to go away, to the moon if there is nowhere better.”

Following its entering the contest, the movement started a “public campaign to send Morsi behind the sun”, an Egyptian expression referring to the persecution of political activists under authoritarian regimes. Most of these activists have been members of leftist and political Islamic groupings, including the Muslim Brotherhood, who were sent “behind the sun” by being sent to jail with hardly any access to their families.

Morsi said during his presidential campaign in spring last year that he had once worked for NASA, something that he later denied saying after many commentators had suggested it was not true. At the time many satirical TV shows inundated viewers with sound bites of Morsi saying “I worked for NASA” when a candidate and later “I never said I worked for NASA” when president.

“We thought that if he had worked for NASA he might be better on the moon than on our planet, and we thought it was a good idea to send him to the moon as a result,” Khaled said.

However, Morsi is certainly not going to the moon any more than ousted former president Hosni Mubarak was when activists photoshopped a picture of the American astronaut Neil Armstrong to include Mubarak’s face. Armstrong was the first man to walk on the moon in 1969.

“At the time there was a debate over the picture of Mubarak with the Israeli prime minister, other Arab leaders and [US President Barack] Obama at the White House, in which the place of Mubarak in the original picture had been shifted to make it look as if Mubarak was out in front with Obama. Activists responded by showing Mubarak in other places he had never been to, including on the moon,” blogger Bassem Sabri said.

“Mubarak was never on the moon, and Morsi is not going there either, but in both cases activists are expressing themselves and showing their frustration in a non-traditional way. As a result of the expanding use of the Internet and the large number of Egyptian subscribers to social media sites, one can expect more of this kind of sarcasm,” Sabri said.

The idea of sending Morsi to the moon has received much attention, including from the foreign press and especially after TV satirist Bassem Youssef, who has been making a living from mocking Morsi and his aides, decided to join the contest to compete with Morsi only to pull out after the president’s name was removed by the company.

Morsi has been the subject of endless jokes in Egypt, especially ones put online and using photographs and sound bites. Morsi’s statement to the Egyptian-German business association late last month produced endless material for satire, for example, when he told the audience that “alcohol and gas don’t mix.” Satirists soon came up with the line that “Morsi and Egypt don’t mix.”

Khaled said that such satirical sound bites have been increasing since the final years of Mubarak’s rule. “We mocked Mubarak and Gamal Mubarak repeatedly, and we even organised online sessions to do so in 2009 and 2010,” the 6 April Movement member said.

According to Abdel-Moneim Imam, an activist, there is a key difference between the anti-Mubarak and anti-Morsi satire that goes beyond the wider freedoms and broader access to social media of today.

During the Mubarak years, satire indicated frustration with the president’s extended stay in office, but “today people are not really convinced that Morsi is president in the first place. They are not just mocking him — they are not really thinking of him as president at all.”

It is this that will make it almost impossible for the mockery of Morsi to move from the social media to the film industry, according to Sherif Naguib, a comedy script writer. “The scope of the satire is being exhausted. There is nothing left for us to use in writing comedy scripts about Morsi,” Naguib said.

During the last years of Mubarak’s presidency a few movies that carefully and indirectly criticised, but did not exactly mock, the president were produced. “They were very carefully done, and they did not cross certain red lines. However, in Morsi’s case the red lines have been almost erased, and it would be pointless to try to go further in films about him,” he added.

“There is also little appetite for politics in the film industry now. Politics has been left to Facebook and Twitter.”

The idea of sending Morsi to the moon comes against a background of ongoing protests calling for an end to the first term of Egypt’s first-ever elected president and moves to express dismay at his performance.

On Sunday, 100 writers, university professors and artists issued a statement saying that they had no confidence in Morsi. The president, the statement said, had failed to meet the basic demands of the Egyptian people and the aspirations of the 25 January Revolution and as a result he needed to step down.

“If he is not getting the message from the demonstrations, and if he is not getting it from the jokes wanting to send him to the moon, then he might get it from the statements addressed to him directly,” said novelist Ibrahim Abdel-Meguid.

“Morsi had his chance, but he failed to make anything of it. His performance shows that he is totally disconnected from what is going on in the country. He must really come from the moon, and he might as well go back there,” Abdel-Meguid said.

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