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Mursi and Egypt's traditionalist-liberal clash

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Mursi and Egypt's traditionalist-liberal clash


Winner of Egypt’s presidency with nearly 52 percent of the people’s votes, Mohammed Mursi took the oath of office almost exactly one year ago. It had been judged a free and fair election. It produced Egypt’s first Islamist and civilian holder of top executive power.

He promised the country’s 83.5 million people he would be the president of all of them. Now he recognises that divisions among them are so deep that they threaten democracy, risking institutional paralysis and chaos.

But Mursi still has many supporters. They point to the legitimacy the ballot box gave this 62-year-old former senior member of the influential Muslim Brotherhood movement. They blame the problems tearing at Egypt on the old guard regime of President Mubarak.

On the other hand, a look at the caricatures of Mursi painted on Cairo’s walls shows the artists’ views of Mursi as an octopus, or Mursi an Islamist aparatchik, inserting his spies at key points in the country’s machinery.

Others portray him as a sheep, a man of straw dandled by the Muslim Brotherhood’s political commissars, to do their bidding. The president of modern Egypt is even mocked on humourist Bassem Yousef’s nationally-watched hit TV show.

In a referendum held last December, 64 percent of the country approved of a new constitution promoted by the Islamists – but the opposition said the poll was full of irregularities. Traditional Koran-based Sharia law was enshrined.

A member of the Egyptian Organisation for Human Rights, Ghada Shahbender, addresses this: “We are concerned about the freedom and the rights of all Egyptians, be they women, children, youth or adult men, Nubians, Bedouins from Sinai, Muslims or Christians. This constitution does not protect the rights of all Egyptians.”

Interreligious violence has broken out repeatedly during Mursi’s presidency. In April, four Copts – who have been Egyptian Christians since the first century CE – were killed, and one Muslim in clashes on the outskirts of Cairo – clashes which flared up again during the funerals.

More proof that gulfs of comprehension remain to be bridged came when Mursi appointed a former member of Gamaa al Islamiya to govern Luxor – where that group remains accused of murdering 58 foreign tourists and four Egyptians in 1997.

The new governor responded to protests by abortively resigning.

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