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As promised last week, we will give some details about Dr. Muhammad Morsi, principally about a visit paid him by the author of Mullahs, Merchants, and Militants, by Stephen J. Glain, St. Martin’s Press, New York, 2004. Mr. Glain is a former Wall Street Journal Middle East correspondent. His meeting with Morsi is set out in his book on pages 268 to 275. It took place primarily at Dr. Morsi’s office at Zaqaziq University.
Zaqaziq is located about 70 kilometers from the Suez Canal, and is the main city in Sharkiya, which is Egypt’s second-largest province, with a population of six million people.
Glain starts the report of his 4 March, 2002, meeting thusly:
I had come to Zaqaziq as a guest of Dr. Muhammad Morsi, a Muslim Brotherhood parliamentarian and professor of engineering at the university. A week earlier he and fellow party leader Dr. Ali Laben had told me about the party platform at their Cairo headquarters. As Dr. Ali put it, the Muslim Brotherhood’s vision goes back three or four centuries: an Islamic republic modeled on the Turkish sultanate. They also believe in market economics and free trade.
“Our goal is to realize the faith as it was practiced by true Muslims,” said Dr. Ali. “We want to return our system to the early caliphates.”
Mr. Glain then quotes Dr. Muhammad: “We are teachers, not judges,” he said. “We use legal means for legal objectives. The Egyptian government, the Americans, the Israelis have much more to fear from us than from [Islamic] Jihad. Had America ignored Osama bin Laden he would have faded away.”
“In January,” Dr. Muhammad went on, “the prime minister addressed parliament. He said the strength of the ruling party rested on five pillars: the military, the security forces, the media, the judiciary, and the personality of the president. Not once did he mention the people.”
After going to Dr. Morsi’s classroom to meet, they shortly moved on to his office, described as “spare.” He called for coffee but had none himself, for he was fasting in celebration of the Muslim holy day that commemorates the exodus of Moses and the Israelites from Egypt.
He continues: “As Dr. Muhammad briefed me on his schedule, students trooped in with vouchers they could redeem for discounts on textbooks. Dr. Muhammad spoke to each briefly, signed their slips, and then turned back to me.”
“Today I will go to the irrigation ministry office to discuss the current water shortage,” he said. “And after sunset, I’ll go to the farmers. This is how I spend most of my time. It takes three-quarters of my day when it should only take 10 percent. It is an obstacle to our main mission of making laws.”
I volunteered that local politics was important in the formation of any democracy.
Dr. Muhammad shook his head. “This is not America. When I ran for office, the Mukhabarat broke into my house and took my books from my home. My books. They charged my son with trying to overthrow the government and held him for two months. He was distributing leaflets.
Even after I was elected, they kept him in jail, though I didn’t get involved. I even suggested they take my wife instead, but they weren’t interested.”
More students knocked on the door. They presented vouchers, discussed term papers, begged for extensions on deadlines.
“When these students graduate where will they go?” he asked. ‘The market is saturated.”
“There are no jobs. We have 200,000 graduates in the market, and the unemployment rate for students inside their discipline is 60, 70 percent. It’s hard for them to find any work. The government promises, promises, but nothing happens. More than half of Egyptians can’t read. Only death is reducing the rate of illiteracy. Last year we earmarked L. E300 million for coping with illiteracy. Where does that money go?”
Later, Glain and Morsi returned to Dr. Muhammad’s office. At the entrance lay a pile of shoes belonging to the dozen or so of his constituents waiting in a reception area. The floor was covered with carpets and the walls with maps of Palestine in all its shifting contours — the borders in 1947, 1967, 1973, and 1982.
“Palestine is ours,” Dr. Muhammad said. “It is not for the Jews. One day we will take it back.”
“What about Egypt’s peace treaty with Israel?” I asked. “That is enshrined in Egyptian law, and yet you don’t recognize Israel.”
“We have no problem with Jews in Palestine. But only as Jews living there in a Jewish state.”
“What about the borders of Palestine prior to the 1967 war? They were established by United Nations resolution.”
“This was a canard by Europeans in league with Zionists.”
“But would you tolerate Israel if it withdrew?”
“Do you think this will happen?”
“Dr. Muhammad smiled. “Ask me when it does.”
Now, almost a decade later. Dr. Muhammad Morsi, and his Muslim Brotherhood have had the opportunity to demonstrate that they are qualified and desirous of ruling Egypt, but to the thinking of a large majority of Egyptians, their faith in Morsi and his Brotherhood has been betrayed, and the characteristics of the Brotherhood which were mentioned in last week’s piece have once again come to the fore and to all appearance they have lost out on their golden opportunity to govern in a moderate fashion and have reverted to type and begun to attempt to achieve the goal stated by Dr. Ali Laben, quoted at the beginning of this column, i.e. ‘”Our goal is to realize the faith as it was practiced by true Muslims,’ said Dr. Ali. ‘We want to return our system to the early caliphates.’”
It seems the great majority of Egyptians do not share this goal, and are willing to do what is necessary to prevent it from happening.
We in the West should be grateful for this.
The fact that some of the members of the Senate, both Democrat and Republican, wish to punish the Egyptians for this move to protect themselves and to protect us is reprehensible. We should cheer that Egypt is no longer to beled by a man whose opinion it is that, “Had America ignored Osama bin Laden he would have faded away.”
The fact that Morsi was elected, upon which fact so many in the media have harped on ad nauseam, does not make him any more acceptable. After all, Adolf Hitler came to power in a perfectly legal manner.
As one commentator observed the other day, “It is more important as to how one governs than how one was selected.”
That certainly fits the justification for displacement of Morsi. Although he may have been freely and democratically elected, his year in office has been dominated by his dictatorial and undemocratic rule. Another such year might well put Egypt in a posture from which it would never fully recover.
Thus, although the army may have acted undemocratically, its actions could save democracy for Egypt in the long run.