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California Engineer To Muslim Brother: Meet Egypt's New President Mohamed Morsi

He was the charismatically-challenged alternative candidate for the Muslim Brotherhood party. But destiny has awarded the US-trained Islamist Morsi the presidency of Egypt at a crucial moment in the nation's history.

Article illustrative image Partner logo Morsi studied at USC (Wikipedia)

CAIRO - With official confirmation Sunday of his victory in the presidential election, Mohamed Morsi will become Egypt’s first civilian president.

The Muslim Brotherhood’s candidate entered the race as a back-up to the more charismatic and influential Khairat al-Shater.

Morsi’s nomination was held as evidence of the group’s indecisiveness and provoked numerous jokes. Satire popped up on social media dubbing Morsi “the spare” presidential hopeful or “Shater’s double.”

Almost a week later, Shater was officially excluded from the race by the Presidential Elections Commission and Morsi became the group’s sole candidate with the backing of the Brotherhood’s massive and well-organized campaign machine. During the campaign period, Morsi toured Egypt alongside Shater. He was introduced as the architect of the "Nahda" platform (the Arabic word for renaissance).

Morsi was born in 1951 in the Delta province of Sharqiya. He studied engineering at Cairo University before he went to the University of Southern California to pursue a PhD. According to his resume posted on a Muslim Brotherhood’s website, Morsi worked as assistant professor at California State University Northridge in the early 1980s.

He returned to Egypt in the mid-1980s to teach at Zagazig University’s Faculty of Engineering.

Unlike many leading brothers, Morsi’s legacy does not emanate from many years of imprisonment or decades of sacrifice to the long-persecuted organization. His name began to echo within the Muslim Brotherhood only in the early 2000s after his victory in parliamentary elections.

Since then, his ascent has been related to his ties with Shater. For many insiders, Morsi’s complacent nature and unquestionable commitment to the group’s internal discipline and order gained him Shater’s support.

"For Shater, being trustworthy and obedient is the most important thing," said Abdel Rahman Ayyash, a former brother.

Shater, who always preferred to remain backstage, empowered Morsi and pushed him to the organization’s forefront. With Shater’s blessing, Morsi eventually seized the group’s most crucial portfolios including the political and media divisions. In April 2011, the Shura Council, the group’s top decision-making body, chose Morsi as the president of the Freedom and Justice Party, their brand new political party.

"Shater always prefers to entrust people who are close to him with crucial positions and this is why Morsi is president of [the Muslim Brotherhood's] party," added Ayyash.

Tense relationship with youth

Morsi is considered one of the conservative voices within Egypt’s oldest Islamist organization. His power put him in confrontation with the group’s progressive youth on several occasions.

When the group issued its political platform in 2007, some young brothers had decried on the blogosphere three controversial clauses that denied women and Copts the right to run for president and stipulated that laws should be vetted by a board of religious scholars. 

In a bid to contain the outrage of the organization’s young activists, Morsi sat down with these bloggers. However, his discourse alienated them further.

According to Ayyash, a 22-year-old blogger who attended the meeting, Morsi said in a firm tone: “This is how we think and this is how we understand Islam.” After the revolution, the group dropped the three clauses.

Last year, the tension between Morsi and the group’s youths intensified as the latter became overtly defiant of the leaders’ commands.

The revolution emboldened many young brothers and prompted them to challenge the leaders’ orders on several occasions during the 18-day-uprising that culminated in Hosni Mubarak’s ouster. Young brothers had refused orders not to take to the streets on 25 January 2011 and to withdraw from the square during the Battle of the Camel.

Morsi called for a meeting with the group’s representatives in the then-vigorous Revolution Youth Coalition only a few days after Mubarak had stepped down, according to Ahmed Abdel Gawad, a 35-year old brother who was among the attendees.

“It was a strange meeting,” said Abdel Gawad. “It seemed as if he came for brainwashing purposes and to justify the mistakes made by the group during the revolution, such as why they did not take to the street on January 25, and why they agreed to hold negotiations with [intelligence chief] Omar Suleiman.” 

However, towards the end of the meeting, Morsi insinuated that the organization was not happy about the youths’ rebellious attitudes, according to Abdel Gawad.

Meanwhile, young brothers were heavily involved in further protests that demanded the sacking of the cabinet and the uprooting of the remnants of Mubarak's regime. They became regular guests on news talk shows.

"For the Muslim Brotherhood, to see some of their followers take all that space and act outside the parameters of the group is a red line," explained Abdel Gawad. Eventually, Morsi sent his assistant to meet again with young brothers a week later, Abdel Gawad said. This assistant was assigned to convey a particular message.

Read the full article at Al-Masry Al-Youm

photo - Wikipedia

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