Mohammed Morsi is the president of Egypt, elected in summer 2012 as a representative of the Muslim Brotherhood following the revolution that drove out former president Hosni Mubarak. Since his ascent to power he has caused controversy and alienated his political opponents. This culminated in his decree on November 22 of “absolute power” — a power that leaves him immune to legal challenge — leading some to describe his as Egypt’s new pharaoh. Supposedly, the power will only exist until a new constitution is ratified, but there have been protests throughout Egypt as well as concern worldwide.
Here’s what you need to know…
1. He Declared Himself Beyond Reproach
When Morsi returned from peace negotiations between Hamas and Israel, he made the announcement that the country’s attorney general had been fired — viewing him as a hangover from the Mubarak regime. Then he went on to say that legal challenges to the committee charged with drawing up the country’s new constitution are banned — a move supposedly designed to make the country’s transition into an Islamic republic smoother. Any of his decrees about the political future of the country are beyond reproach.
Morsi’s justification for his new powers is the stagnation that Egypt has encountered en route to democracy.
2. The Protesters Are Back in Tahir Square
In immediate response to the decree, protesters once again camped out in the iconic Tahir Square, just as they had done during the Arab Spring, which helped bring Morsi into power.
Protesters have been scattered by police firing tear gas and allegedly injuring some of the crowd. The Muslim Brotherhood’s main offices were vandalized by a group of youths, as well as other government buildings.
Morsi has claimed that money missing from Mubarak’s time as president is being used to fund the resistance.
One chant being used by the crowsd is:
Morsi is Mubarak… revolution everywhere”
3. The U.S. State Department is on Alert
According to U.S. State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland, the decree has “raised concerns” among United Nations countries. Speaking about the nature of the Arab Spring, she said:
[It was] to ensure that power would not be overly concentrated in the hands of any one person or institution.
Prior to the decree, Morsi was praised by the U.S. government thanks to his role in the peace agreement between Israel and Hamas.
When Nuland was questioned on the state department’s view of the decree, she told reporters:
When confronted with concerns about the decree that he issued, President Morsi entered into discussions with the judiciary — with other stakeholders in Egypt, that’s a far cry from an autocrat just saying, ‘My way or the highway.'”
4.The Decree Might Have a Bright Side — Justice for Slain Protesters
The decree includes a motion that Morsi’s government will hold re-trials for officials implicated in the killings of protesters during the Arab Spring, many of whom escaped consequences. Added to that, a new court known as the “Protection of the Revolution” will be established to hold speedy prosecutions.
5. Egypt Has Just Secured A Huge International Monetary Fund Loan
With a $4.8 billion loan due to be handed out to Egypt on December 19, the IMF has only said that the current Egyptian government must keep with the economic plans laid out last week regardless of the political situation. The loan was issued before the decree was made and has been granted to aid Egypt’s development.
News of the deal was expected to encourage foreign investment into the country, something that seems unlikely with the recent rash of violence.
6. There are Protesters in Support of the Decree
A few miles from Tahir Square, members of the Muslim Brotherhood are protesting in front of Morsi’s residence at the presidential palace.
One of Morsi’s key supporters, the conservative cleric Mohammed Abdel-Maksoud, said:
Whoever insults the sultan, God humiliates him.”
The official line coming from the state media is that Morsi’s decree is to bring about “a correct revolution.” Official state talk radio has been featuring calls supporting the decree all week. Meanwhile the private media outlet Al-Masry al-Youm ran a headline: “Morsi, a dicator, temporarily.”
7. Egypt’s Judges are Divided
Egypt’s Judges Club has called the decree a “ferocious attack on Egyptian justice.” The group has also called for all judges in the country to go on strike, even though the Supreme Judicial Council has forbidden this.
Another judges group, Judges for Egypt, has spoken in favor of Morsi’s actions. The president himself has said he will call a meeting of all supreme judges in the country.
8. Media is Being Censored
All of Egypt’s private television stations have disappeared from the airwaves. Many fear this will become a permanent fixture, as President Morsi apparently seeks to create a hardline Islamic state, the managing director of NileSat, one of the countries biggest broadcasters, Salah Hamza, told Russia Today.
9. Two of Morsi’s Children are U.S. Citizens
Despite arguably setting his new nation up to oppose the U.S., two of President Morsi’s five children were born in Southern California. They were born while Morsi was an assistant professor at the California State University. Morsi had previously studied in America, earning his Ph.D. at the University of Southern California.
A case was brought in June this year before a court in Egypt, ordering that the two children who hold the citizenship renounce it. One of Morsi’s Egyptian national children, Osama, said his siblings should retain their U.S. nationality because of their personal freedom.
10. Morsi is a 9/11 Conspiracy Nut
Morsi has been a proponent of 9/11 conspiracy theories.
Back in May 2010, Morsi denied al-Qaeda had anything to do with 9/11, saying:
When you come and tell me that the plane hit the tower like a knife in butter, then you are insulting us. How did the plane cut through the steel like this? Something must have happened from the inside. It’s impossible.”
In 2007, Morsi claimed the U.S. government “never presented any evidences [sic] on the identity of those who committed that incident.” A year later he was banging the drum again saying that there should be a “huge scientific conference” to discover “what caused the attack against a massive structure like the two towers.”
Since becoming the leader of Egypt though, Morsi has wisely kept his nutty ideas to himself.