CAIRO — Add this to the list of reasons for violence and extremism in the Middle East.
“Tom and Jerry” cartoons.
That’s what the head of Egypt’s State Information Service declared in a speech this week at Cairo University. And, oh yes, in case the audience didn’t take him seriously about his theories on the dim-witted cat and the pesky mouse, he offered two more reasons: video games and violent movies.
“Tom and Jerry” portrays “the violence in a funny manner and sends the message that, yes, I can hit him … and I can blow him up with explosives. It becomes set in [the viewer’s] mind that this is natural,” SIS head Salah Abdel Sadek told the audience, according to a translation by the website EgyptianStreets.com
And the video games?
“It has become very normal for a young man to spend long hours playing video games, killing and spilling blood, and he’s happy and content,” Abdel Sadek continued. He added, according to the website, that youths are “faced with social pressures that push them to resort to violence, which they consider normal and understandable.”
In a nation whose security forces are considered among the most repressive and brutal in the Middle East, the fact that a senior official was blaming the region’s violence on cartoons and video games was, well, outright ludicrous.
And, as expected, the Arab world exploded on social media in response to the speech.
But some took Abdel Sadek’s comments seriously. On the privately owned media website Youm7, an article popped out after his speech.
The title: “Five accusations Tom and Jerry Faces in Egypt.”
The article is about how children learn bad habits from the American cartoon, such as smoking, stealing and drinking booze, according to a translation by EgyptianStreets.com. The article also opines that the cartoon “warps the idea of justice, helps children come up with sinister plans, and encourages violence and the use of sharp instruments such as knives, guns, and chainsaws.”
The question now is this: Will Egypt’s government censor “Tom and Jerry”?