On one of Egypt's most famous talk shows, the screen was split in two. A Muppet-like character occupied one side of the screen — on the other side, a menacing teenager threatened to throw the puppet in jail. The show's host moderated the debate between the two, Abla Fahita, the puppet, and Ahmed Spider, the teenage-looking conspiracy theorist.
Such a scene would be fine if the show were a satire, but it is not. Last week, Ahmed Spider made an official complaint against Vodafone Egypt and puppet character Abla Fahita, who appeared in one of their advertisements, accusing them of sending hidden messages to terrorists in the ad. The complaint was subsequently referred to state security prosecutors, who deal with cases involving terrorism and security threats. The prosecutors have since brought officials from Vodafone Egypt in for questioning. The list of suspected spies and terrorist allies in Egypt already includes a pigeon, a stork and a shark – now we can add Abla Fahita the puppet and her daugher, Carolina, aka Carcoura, to the list.
In response to the news, Paul Sedra tweeted:
@sedgate: With the Abla Fahita investigation, #Egypt once again challenges North Korea for the title of most paranoid state on earth.
Many Egyptian netizens could only deal with the news through sarcasm.
@Cairo67Unedited: If anyone from TV calls asking 2 use ur Kitten in their next phone ad #Egypt hang up on them:Next thing u know cat is on trial
Nevine Zaki mocked Abla Fahita calling her the Che Guevara of our generation.
May Sadek and Pakinam Amer tweeted about the puppet, who now has more than 1 million fans on Facebook, and is no less than a revolutionary figure.
@maysadek: ‘F’ for fahita. Not as strong as ‘V’ for vendetta .. But it'll do the job fine..#ablafahita
@pakinamamer: Abla Fahita should lead the next revolution. She'd be our V. The faceless resistance. #3abath #Surrealism
@MohAnis: Rumor has it that #ablafahita is seeking asylum with the muppet show or sesame street.
Satirical comments kept on drawing laughs on social media.
@_amroali: #Egypt has saved the world from a big terrorist threat not seen since the Muppets tried to take Manhattan #AblaFahita
@HoudaBelabd: #Egypt: Ministry of Interior is actually recording phone calls and Facebook conversations between #AblaFahita & Mickey Mouse!
@anasaltikriti: After the Vodafone puppet fiasco, are there any more sensible people out there who respect the coup government?
Rumors also suggested that SpongeBob SquarePants may be the next suspect. A question was asked on Google Ejabat wondering whether the cartoon character is a member of the Muslim Brotherhood given the fact it is yellow and has four fingers — just like the banners of Rabia.
Out of the fear of getting arrested for using the Rabia logo as their avatar [after Egypt outlawed the Muslim Brotherhood], some social media users created alternative logos.
On a more a serious note, Mohamed ElGohary wondered whether the Egyptian government is using the case as a vehicle for blackmailing Vodafone Egypt:
Earlier in November Bloomberg published that “Telecom Egypt May Buy Vodafone Local Division When 4G Is Offered“. Personally I don't want for this acquiring to happen, since it will decrease/eliminate competition in mobile/4G emerging market .. The million dollar question here, as Vodafone actually wants to buy the government stakes, is this BS accusation a dirty step for blackmailing/forcing Vodafone Egypt to comply to what the government wants?
The Facebook page of Kazeboon published the following image that asks which cases prosecutors investigate and which ones they don't.Sarah Carr compared Ahmed Spider to Glenn Beck in her blog post about Abla Fahita's case:
Every country has its Glenn Beck type public figures, the difference in Egypt is that they are taken seriously where it suits the political ambitions of those at the reins and serves a useful purpose. Thus we have the Public Prosecutor accepting a complaint about a finger puppet while nobody has been charged for the deaths of nearly 1,000 people at Rab3a, because the current mood is almost fascistic in its reverence for the state and for state hegemony and for state opponents to be eliminated. If there was a page equivalent to We Are All Khaled Said now it would be Turns Out We Are All Adolf Hitler. Comedy and tragedy often overlap.
Finally, Holly Dagres tweeted: