Islamic presidential candidate promises democracy in Egypt (CNN) Cable News Network) By Josh Levs 05/22/12)
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(CNN) -- Mohamed Morsi is an American-educated engineer who vows to
stand for democracy, women´s rights, and peaceful relations with
Israel if he wins the Egyptian presidency.
He´s also an Islamist figure who has argued for barring women from
the Egyptian presidency and called Israeli leaders "vampires"
and "killers." One analyst describes him as an "icon" of those
seeking an "extreme agenda."
As Morsi, 60, battles to win the presidency, questions surround how
much of a hard line he would take, and what direction he would steer
One of the three top candidates, Morsi leads the Freedom and Justice
Party, the political wing of the Muslim Brotherhood -- the most
powerful political movement in the new Egyptian government,
controlling about half of parliament.
His party notes that he was arrested several times under President
Hosni Mubarak´s regime for protesting "repressive measures and
oppressive practices," as well as "rigged elections." At one point he
spent seven months in jail.
Analysts say Morsi is focusing his campaign on appealing to the
broadest possible audience.
But he "represents the older, more conservative wing of the
Brotherhood and openly endorses a strict Islamic vision," Isobel
Coleman of the Council on Foreign Relations wrote in a column for
"A vote for Mohamed Morsi will consolidate the Brotherhood´s
political influence, which could translate into a constitution with
weaker provisions for protection of minority and women´s rights."
A slogan associated with his campaign, "Islam is the solution," is
sparking concerns Morsi could introduce a fundamentalist Islamic
He told CNN he has no such plans. His party seeks "an executive
branch that represents the people´s true will and implements their
public interests," Morsi told CNN´s Christiane Amanpour.
"There is no such thing called an Islamic democracy. There is
democracy only. ... The people are the source of authority," he said.
Asked about the role of women, he vowed that "women´s rights are
equal to men."
And asked whether he would maintain Egypt´s 1979 accord with Israel,
Morsi answered, "Yes, of course I will. I will respect it provided
the other side keep it up and respect it."
Morsi was not originally his party´s candidate for the country´s top
post. He was called on to step in after the first choice was
disqualified. Khairat al-Shater was among three candidates who were
told they did not meet candidacy requirements.
The Egyptian media then portrayed Morsi as "an accident of history,"
said Shadi Hamid of the Brookings Dohan Center and the Brookings
In a column published by The Atlantic, Hamid said Morsi lacks the
charisma and "crossover appeal" of al-Shater, and poses the Muslim
Brotherhood "with an existential challenge."
"A Morsi defeat -- particularly at the hands of presidential
competitor Aboul Fotouh, himself a Brotherhood defector -- could spur
a major internal split," he said. Fotouh "would undermine the group´s
once firm grip over Egyptian Islamism."
The Financial Times notes that the Muslim Brotherhood had originally
pledged not to seek the presidency.
"It went back on its word, suspecting that its gains since the
January 2011 revolution could be undermined by the military council
that has ruled since the fall of President Hosni Mubarak."
Morsi has served as a central behind-the-scenes player for much of
the past decade, Eric Trager of the Washington Institute for Near
East Policy writes in a column for The New Republic.
He was the Brotherhood´s primary point man for state security -- "the
repressive domestic security apparatus through which the Mubarak
regime monitored and infiltrated opposition groups," Trager writes.
"Indeed, Brotherhood leaders trusted Morsi because they viewed him as
ideologically rigid, and therefore unlikely to concede too much to
the regime during negotiations."
Morsi was also "an icon of the extremists in the Muslim Brotherhood,"
pushing for an "extreme agenda," Trager writes.
Morsi´s official bio on the Freedom and Justice Party website
describes him as "one of the most prominent political leadership
figures of the Brotherhood, the organization that led the struggle
against the ousted repressive regime in its last decade."
He led the Broterhood´s parliamentary bloc from 2000 to 2005 in
addition to serving as president of the Department of Materials
Science, Faculty of Engineering at Zagazig University.
Morsi was arrested several times "due to his constantly firm stance
against the repressive measures and oppressive practices of the
overthrown regime," the party said.
"After the 2005 elections were rigged, Dr. Mohamed Morsi led
demonstrations in support for judges demanding independence, refusing
referral of some judges to the Competence Commission to punish them
for their outspoken views against blatant elections fraud."
The following May, he was among 500 members of the Brotherhood
arrested, the party said. Morsi spent seven months behind bars.
"He was arrested, yet again, on the morning of the ´Friday of Anger´
on January 28, 2011, during the revolution of January 25 along with a
large number of Brotherhood leaders across Egypt. ... When several
prisons were destroyed during the revolution, and many prisoners
escaped, Dr. Morsi refused to leave his prison cell. Instead, he
contacted satellite TV channels and news agencies demanding the
judicial authorities visit the prison and check the legal position of
jailed Muslim Brotherhood leaders, to clarify if there were indeed
any legal reasons for their arrest," the party website says.
Morsi -- who has Bachelor and Master degrees from Cairo University
and a doctorate from the University of Southern California -- insists
that under his leadership, such abuses won´t happen.
There will be "no need for worry at all over any kind of abusive
power," he told CNN. "It will be impossible to allow these kinds of
abuse in the shadow of a constitutional state, a lawful state, a
state that protects the dignity of a person." (© 2012 Cable News
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