The exposure of virulent anti-Semitic and anti-Western sentiments by Egypt’s President Mohammed Morsi is “raising questions about Mr. Morsi’s efforts to present himself as a force for moderation and stability,” The New York Times reports:
Nearly three years ago, [Morsi] delivered a speech urging Egyptians to “nurse our children and our grandchildren on hatred” for Jews and Zionists. ….In video footage first broadcast Friday … Morsi addressed a rally in his hometown in the Nile Delta to denounce the Israeli blockade of Gaza. “We must never forget, brothers, to nurse our children and our grandchildren on hatred for them: for Zionists, for Jews,” Mr. Morsi declared. Egyptian children “must feed on hatred; hatred must continue,” he said. “The hatred must go on for God and as a form of worshiping him.”
“These bloodsuckers who attack the Palestinians, these warmongers, the descendants of apes and pigs,” Morsi stated ina television interview from 2010 unearthed by the Middle East Media Research Institute. “They have been fanning the flames of civil strife wherever they were throughout their history. They are hostile by nature.”
The revelations will heighten the fears of many observers that Egypt’s transition is headed in a firmly illiberal direction.
The Muslim Brotherhood — a secretive, rigorously disciplined and hierarchical organization — neither understands nor sees inherent value in democratic politics. Rather, the Muslim Brotherhood believes in a narrow majoritarianism and its leaders and supporters often confuse that with democracy. The Brotherhood believes that 50 percent + 1 equals a free hand to pursue its agenda. And its agenda is manifestly an illiberal one in which universal rights are subordinated to religious doctrine.
“The manner in which Egypt’s new constitution was conceived, written, and adopted offers the clearest example of the Brotherhood’s authoritarian and majoritarian tendencies,” she writes for Foreign Policy, noting that the group is also turning a blind eye to rising sectarian attacks on Egyptian Christians:
Now with Islamists politically ascendant, hardline influential Muslim clerics have ratcheted up their sectarian invective against Christians. They are emboldened by the fact that the Muslim Brotherhood and their Salafi extremist junior partners believe in the primacy of Islamic principles over equal citizenship.
Despite the Muslim Brotherhood’s insistence that they are committed to democracy, media freedom and political pluralism, “there are disturbing signs that they may not stick to those promises.”
With the Islamist group’s moderate credentials being called into question, it “must respond by re-affirming its democratic bona fides not just in rhetoric but in actual practice,” writes Eid Mohamed, a Brookings Doha Center analyst:
“At this critical stage, it is important that the organization de-emphasize its ideological and organizational advantage and recognize that in a fragile process of democratization, even the perception of authoritarianism – regardless of a popular mandate – can be very damaging indeed,” he contends, especially at a time of increasingly acute tensions between secular liberals and Islamists:
As the two camps become further polarized, an “us versus them” mentality is becoming so ingrained that it has become a serious threat to the social fabric and political life of post-Mubarak Egypt…..
Both Islamists and liberals should take into consideration, however, that there are new actors such as labor unions, employers’ associations, revolutionary groups and other civil society groups which gained a sense of empowerment after the revolution. Often, it is these groups that are most able to cross ideological lines and truly represent social interests. They constitute the real revolution in Egyptian society, and provide an example that politicians would do well to follow.