After Morsi Failure Egypt Deserves True Democracy
Published: Friday, August 30, 2013
Updated: Sunday, September 1, 2013 14:09
As I travelled from France to England last June, border officials peered at me with bewilderment upon seeing my small, green Egyptian passport. They asked me about Egypt’s 2011 revolution and the then-recent election of Islamist president Mohamed Morsi. As he handed back my passport, one of the officers inquired how Egyptians expected a democratic process when they’ve elected Islamists to the government.
"It doesn’t matter," I insisted. "They deserve a chance just like everyone else."
Although Morsi was our least preferred candidate, my family defended his election and cautioned others not to write him off with an "Islamist" label until we had given him a fair chance. One year later, however, I am convinced that this experiment with the Muslim Brotherhood has gone horribly wrong. Unlike some Egyptians, I do not think that Morsi is the sole cause of our problems, but he did still fail to implement the values of the revolution and to show accountability to his people. Even worse, he exploited Islam to serve his own needs and to pressure voters into supporting him.
On Morsi’s first day in office, he and his wife denounced the extravagance of the presidential palace and reassured the Egyptian people that religious or political differences would never cause bloodshed again. At the time, many of us hopefully believed that this could be the leader for which we had been anxiously waiting. Unfortunately, he proved himself to be in the same rotten vein as Mubarak and his other predecessors.
"So what?" a friend asked. "Morsi is stupid, but so are many presidents. That doesn’t mean you should revolt." My Egyptian friends and I hear this criticism repeatedly. But beyond his stupidity, Morsi was manipulative and prioritized the Brotherhood’s interests above all others. Critics argue that Egyptians should have waited until the end of Morsi’s term to replace him. The Brotherhood’s plans, however, were harmful far before the end of his term. During his presidency, Morsi planted Brotherhood members — many of whom were unqualified — all across the government to ensure the organization’s future role in Egyptian politics.
In November, Morsi issued a decree making his decisions immune from judicial review and effectively cancelling all checks and balances. Although he subsequently withdrew the decree, this attempt at a power grab indicated Morsi’s ulterior motives. In his administration, there was little consideration for the representation of women and Christians, and Morsi was even quoted as saying that Christians must either pay a tax or emigrate. Furthermore, Morsi cancelled free speech in the media and cracked down on anyone criticizing him, the Brotherhood or Islam. Bassem Youssef -- an Egyptian equivalent of Jon Stewart -- faced a lawsuit simply for "ridiculing the president."
Perhaps the most infuriating of Morsi’s actions was his appointment of a member of a militant Islamist organization, al-Gamma al-Islamiya, as governor of Luxor -- a major tourist destination. Since the organization in question takes responsibility for a 1997 massacre that claimed 62 victims in Luxor itself, this appointment displayed complete disrespect to Morsi’s own citizens. The former president can claim legitimacy as much as he wants, but to me, and to many others, he abused his powers and proved to be an incompetent leader for the challenges that Egypt faces.
During the period of Morsi’s control, leaders of the Brotherhood and other extremist clerics used the media to brainwash Egyptians. At Brotherhood rallies, they associated Morsi with prophetic figures and claimed that it was our obligation as Muslims to accept his leadership. The exploitation of Islam by Morsi and the Brotherhood has enraged many Egyptians, including myself, who identify as religious Muslims.
After Morsy’s ouster, some Brotherhood leaders called for increased violence and attacks on churches. They dressed children in white cloths to symbolize their willingness to be martyred. Like most Egyptians, I prefer a civilian government. But currently, there is no alternative to the army, which is Egypt’s most powerful and most structured organization.
Sadly, I am not surprised at the rising death toll. Too many individuals in Egypt have weapons and take advantage of inadequate security to harm others. Whoever claims that only the Brotherhood or the military causes deaths overlooks countless massacres over the past two years.
Yomna Sarhan is a senior in the School of Foreign Service. She grew up in Cairo and in Northern Virginia.