Returning to Cairo’s Tahrir Square, 200,00 flag-waving Egyptians went back to the streets to call for Muslim Brotherhood-backed President Mohamed Morsi to step down. Swept into office after the fall of former Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak Feb. 11, 2011, Egyptians got more than they bargained for when a peaceful revolution ended Mubarak’s 30-year rule. What Egyptian’s didn’t expect was that the Muslim Brotherhood hijacked the election, sweeping Morsi into power, sucking otherwise moderate and open-minded Egyptians into strict Islamic law. “The people want the fall of the regime!” chanted the crowd a revolutionary Tahrir Square. Over a 100,000 also gathered in Egypt’s Mediterranean port city of Alexandria. Faced with an economic collapse causing widespread shortages and downgrade in the Egyptian lifestyle, protesters called for Morsi to step down.
When the USC-educated former Cal State Northridge engineering professor was swept into office in Egypt’s first democratic election, protesters cried election fraud, blaming the Muslim Brotherhood for fixing the results. “We all feel we’re walking on a dead-end road and that the country will collapse,” said Nobel Peace Prize winner and former Egyptian president candidate Mohammed El-Baradei. “I am here to bring down Mursi and the Brotherhood,” said Ahmed Ali al-Badri, a feed merchant in a white robe. “Just look at this country. It’s gone backwards for 20 years. There’s no diesel, gasoline, electricity. Life is just too expensive,” calling attention to the economic collapse following Mubark’s reign. Egypt’s vaunted tourism industry—accounting for 11 percent of the Egyptian economy—has been ravaged by recent protests, never recovered from the 2011 revolution.
Egypt’s independent military vowed that it will follow the will of the people, dismissing any notion that Morsi could order the military to set down protests. “This is our revolution and no one will take it from us,” said 37-year-old Muslim Brotherhood supporter Ahmed Hosny. Of the 200,000 protesters in Tahrir Square, an estimated 17,000 back the Brotherhood. Protests spread to the Suez Canal zone city of Port Said where the shipping trade has made for better economic conditions. Egypt’s religious community warned of “civil war,” should protesters get their way and topple Morsi’s year-old Muslim Brotherhood regime. Speaking to a British newspaper, Morsi blamed the uprising on street thugs but, at the same time, hinted on making some concessions in the new Islamic-backed constitution, giving Islamic clerics too much power in national decision making.
Looking at the Saudi-funded Wahhabi revolution in Syria, Egypt should serve as a reminder of what happens to authoritarian regimes evicted from power. Since ousting Mubarak Feb. 11, 2011, Egypt’s been in economic and social chaos. While the Brotherhood providers some institutional structure in the wake of Mubarak’s authoritarian regime, Syria would face a free-for-all, with various Islamic groups competing for power. Protesters waving flags in Tahrir square don’t know what happened to the promises of democratic reforms that drove the revolution in 2011. Street protesters hope to force Morsi to make more concessions that give Islamic leaders more power over the country’s Constitution. With the economy in shambles with no end in sight, college-educated protesters see a bleak future unless Morsi can develop a strong governing coalition.
Liberal activists like El-Baradei were rejected at the polls in 2012 in part because he spent much of his U.N. career living in Vienna. While there’s no doubt that El-Baradei would have been the best choice for president, he lacks popular support, especially among ultranationalists that see him as a sellout over the years. For El-Baradei to gain the trust of the pro-reform movement, he needs to stand up to Morsi, more than his occasional acerbic public remarks. While Morsi beat former Mubark Prime Minister Ahmed Shafik [53%-48%] in a close election, the results remain uncertain. Intimidation at the polls by the Muslim Brotherhood might have driven away sizable number of voters. As long a Morsi remains attached at the hip to the Muslim Brotherhood, he won’t be trusted by the lion’s share of Egyptians. Vast majorities of Egyptians aren’t drawn to strict Islamic law.
Morsi has no answer for what to do with the Egyptian economy that has at least 13% unemployment, widespread shortages of electricity and petroleum and little hope for rank-and-file Egyptians. Most peace-seeking Egyptians deplore the disgraceful treatment of Coptic Christians, practically driven into exile by the Muslim Brotherhood and other extremist Islamic groups. While President Barack Obama calls for more dialogue in Egypt, he doesn’t tell Morsi to be more tolerant of other points of view, especially competing religious groups like Coptics. Egypt’s future hangs on Morsi creating a more inclusive government, showing the kind of tolerance of non-Muslim groups, especially Coptic Christians that can give hope. Catering to the Muslim Brotherhood has left the vast majority of Egyptians betrayed, after sacrificing their lives to oust Mubarak for a better future.
About the Author
John M. Curtis writes politically neutral commentary analyzing spin in national and global news. He’s editor of OnlineColumnist.com and author of Dodging The Bullet and Operation Charisma.