Egypt Probes Puppet for Suspected TV Terrorism

Abla Fahita is the latest terror suspect in Egypt, The Washington Post reported yesterday. She’s also likely the first one crafted from felt and yarn.

In her story for The Washington Post, Erin Cunningham wrote:

“Fahita — a Muppet-style character who regularly appears on Egyptian television — went on the air Wednesday night to deny allegations that her lines in a recent commercial were coded messages to the recently banned Muslim Brotherhood organization.

‘I am a comedic character,’ Fahita, who plays a gossipy widow, said in an interview with Egypt’s CBC network.

The investigation of the puppet is an extreme sign of a climate of fear and paranoia in Egypt that has intensified in recent weeks.”

In a commercial for Vodaphone, Fahita the puppet talks on the phone with someone about how to find and reactivate her late husband’s telephone SIM card. She mentions that a sniffer dog at a shopping mall might help her find it.

“In a statement, Vodafone said the skit was meant to explain to consumers how to reactivate old cards. But [blogger] Ahmed Spider, an opponent of Egypt’s 2011 uprising against authoritarian rule who filed the complaint, interpreted the reference to the mall as a suggestion for the location of a forthcoming bomb attack,” Cunningham wrote.

“That four-armed cactus in the opening shot? It resembles the spires of a mosque where hundreds of Muslim Brotherhood members were killed,’ Spider argued in an hour-long television presentation of his findings. Egyptian Vodafone dismissed the allegations as ‘mere imagination,’” Time reported.

Since the overthrow of President Mohamed Morsi in July, the government’s military forces have arrested thousands as suspected associates of the Muslim Brotherhood, which Morsi reportedly has ties to. Among those arrested include school-aged children and journalists reporting for Al-Jazeera English, the latter of which were accused of inciting riots.

Egypt’s current paranoid, patriotic zeal is similar to the political climate here in the U.S. after the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks.

“As stupid as it is, it’s very telling,” The Washington Post quoted Ziad Akl, a political analyst at the Al Ahram Center for Political and Strategic Studies, in regard to the puppet case. “It says a lot about the patriotism frenzy we are in. There is definitely a sentiment of fascist nationalism that you either subscribe to, or face being labeled a traitor.”

The military has enjoyed broad public support for removing the democratically elected but deeply unpopular Morsi, who had lost support because of rising crime, a sinking economy and his courtship of hardline Islamists while in power.”

Morsi is expected to appear in court Jan. 8 and faces charges of inciting violence and murders.