Profile: Egypt´s new Islamist president, Mohamed Morsi (ISRAEL HAYOM) The Associated Press and David Baron 06/25/12)
Israel Hayom Articles-Index-Top
Morsi has become the first Islamist to rise to the presidency of the
most populous Arab nation • His first active role in the Muslim
Brotherhood was through membership in an "anti-Zionist" committee •
Despite his education, he can be off-putting to secular elites but
promises to be "a president for all Egyptians."
Mohamed Morsi spent time in jail during the Hosni Mubarak regime, but
not as long as some of his fellow Islamists. He is well-educated,
having studied at the University of Southern California, yet still
betrays his rural roots. He rose through the ranks of the once-banned
Muslim Brotherhood as a lackluster, but loyal, foot soldier.
Now, Morsi has made history in breathtaking fashion, becoming the
first Islamist to rise to the presidency of the most populous Arab
nation in the world.
Aiming to defuse anxieties among large numbers of Egyptians who fear
an Islamic agenda, Morsi said, "I am a president for all Egyptians."
Morsi also borrowed phrases from Abu Bakr, the first Muslim ruler
after the seventh-century death of the Prophet Muhammad, saying, "If
I don´t obey God in serving you, you have no commitment to obey me."
Sunday´s announcement by the country´s electoral commission capped a
political standoff that tested the nerves of not just Egyptians, but
many around the world.
Morsi, a U.S.-trained engineer who rode some improbable twists and
turns in Egypt´s 16-month transition to democracy, is an enigma:
Despite his education, he sometimes struggles to communicate in
public and can be off-putting to some secular elites.
The bespectacled and bearded Morsi squeaked to victory in the freest
election in Egypt´s history, and now the 60-year-old university
professor must prove his mettle by standing up to the ruling generals
who in recent days have stripped the presidency of any real power.
For 35 years, Morsi obediently followed the Muslim Brotherhood´s
strict rules, abiding by the principle of unquestioned obedience to
its supreme leader — a position that changed hands five times during
that period, currently held by Mohammed Badei.
Morsi has dutifully mirrored the group´s strategy of couching a hard-
line doctrine with short-term pragmatism. A relevant example at the
moment is Morsi´s ant-Israel stance overall, but now that he is
elected, he has not called for the annulment of Egypt´s 1979 peace
treaty with Israel.
His history makes clear he will not be the comfortable interlocutor
for Israel that Mubarak was. His first active role in the brotherhood
was through membership in an "anti-Zionist" committee in his Nile
Delta province of Sharkiya in late 1980s, promoting rejection of
normalization with the Jewish state. Brotherhood officials have said
he will not meet with Israelis, but also will not prevent other
officials from doing so.
Morsi helped build the brotherhood constituencies in the Nile Delta
provinces, when the group´s meetings were held in secret, away from
the eyes of security forces that waged crackdowns and sent thousands
to prison for "belonging to a prohibited group" during Mubarak´s
three-decade rule. To this day, the 84-year-old organization relies
on a disciplined network of cadres backing a leadership whose
strategies are formulated behind closed doors.
Unlike other group members who spent years in prison, Morsi was only
detained for eight months in 2008, along with 800 other brotherhood
members for showing solidarity with independent judges. He was also
rounded up along with 34 other brotherhood members in the first few
days of the 2011 uprising. He says he fled the prison with the help
of people who helped demolish its walls.
Morsi, who served in the parliament, is said to have never been the
ideas man in the brotherhood. Instead, he served as an implementer of
policy. Critics say Morsi is solidly part of the hard-line wing of
the brotherhood that has shown little of the flexibility or
willingness to compromise. Throughout his rise in the group, Morsi
has been closest to the two figures who are now the brotherhood´s
powerful deputy leaders, Mahmoud Ezzat and Khairat el-Shater.
"Morsi has no talents but he is faithful and obedient to the group´s
leaders, who see themselves as above the other Muslims," said Abdel-
Sattar el-Meligi, a former senior brotherhood figure who broke with
the group, particularly because of el-Shater´s grip on the
organization. "Morsi would play any role the leaders assign him to,
but with no creativity and no uniqueness."
As a result of this reputation, Egyptians widely assume Morsi´s
presidency will be unofficially subordinate to the brotherhood´s
strongman and chief strategist, el-Shater, who was the group´s first
choice for president. But he was disqualified by election authorities
because of his prison conviction during the Mubarak regime. Morsi
served only as a backup candidate, earning him the unflattering
nickname, "Spare Tire."
Morsi showed some savvy by adjusting his campaign. During the first
round in May, Morsi promised implementation of Islamic Shariah law
and campaigned next to clerics, seeking to rally his group´s base as
well as other Islamists. "The day will come when the Shariah of the
truth is put into effect," he said in one TV show.
But when the race boiled down to a runoff with Mubarak-era politician
Ahmed Shafiq, Morsi tacked to the center. He went after the secular
vote by switching his slogan to "Our strength is in our unity," and
calling himself "the candidate of the revolution." Recent posters
showed him with a priest and a woman not wearing a conservative head
Morsi was born in 1951 in Edwa, an impoverished village in the Nile
Delta province of Sharqiya, in a home built from simple, unpainted
red brick. His relatives wear the traditional galabeya robes of the
countryside. His 50-year-old wife, Naglaa Ali, is a housewife who
dons the traditional Islamic veil that cloaks half her body — a sharp
contrast to Mubarak´s modern-dressing wife, Suzanne. Two of Morsi´s
children hold U.S. citizenship.
Just before his first victory speech, he was caught on camera talking
on his cellphone — apparently calling home — saying, "Tell everyone,
I´m going to be on TV."
He excelled in primary and secondary schools, continuing directly to
engineering school and quickly becoming a member of teaching staff of
Zaqaziq University in his home province. Morsi traveled to the U.S.
to earn his doctorate in metallurgical engineering at the University
of Southern California. Unlike many Egyptians who earned degrees in
the U.S., he chose to return to Egypt and taught at his local
university from 1982 to 1985, in precision metal surfaces. He also
earned a position at NASA and helped develop engines for space
Morsi says he wants to overhaul Egypt´s corrupt and inefficient
government agencies and repair the economy. But the brotherhood may
have little chance to implement anything from its agenda: In recent
days the military council has disbanded the Islamist-dominated
parliament and grabbed sweeping powers that leave the president with
little authority over important policy. The question now is whether
he will play a leading role in taking on the generals and reversing
these decrees, as supporters demand.
Morsi has previously called Israeli leaders "vampires"
and "murderers." When asked if he would respect the peace treaty with
Israel, however, he said, "I will honor it if the other side does
too," but proceeded to blame Israel for violence in the Middle East.
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