Morsi’s Moment

Egypt’s Mohamed Morsi: Peacemaker, savior, tyrant?

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Nadav Kander for TIME
Nadav Kander for TIME

To the Top via Los Angeles
Morsi’s path to the presidency is unique, not only for Egypt but also for a region where leaders tend to come from royalty or the military. Born into modest means in a village north of Cairo, Morsi escaped the dreary fate of millions of his impoverished countrymen by excelling at academics. An engineering degree in Cairo was followed by a seven-year stint in the U.S. in the 1970s and 1980s, when he got a Ph.D. in materials science at the University of Southern California and then worked as an assistant professor at California State University at Northridge. His California years left Morsi with an abiding fondness for the Trojans, USC’s football team, and the nickname Mo, an old friend said. Two of his five children were born in the U.S. and are American citizens; he laughs at the suggestion that they will one day be qualified to run for the U.S. presidency.

When he returned to Egypt in 1985, he became active in the Muslim Brotherhood, an Islamist group known for its strong anti-American positions. But Morsi retains a warm nostalgia for his former home. “I don’t like it when people in my country say, ‘America is against us,’ because I know [the situation] is different,” he says, citing the friendliness he encountered in California.

Back in Egypt, while teaching at an Egyptian university, Morsi rose swiftly in the ranks of the Brotherhood: he would serve in parliament, then become something of a political enforcer within the group. After Mubarak’s fall last year made the prospect of a President from the Brotherhood almost inevitable, Morsi’s name was rarely mentioned. When he emerged this year as the candidate of the Freedom and Justice Party, the Muslim Brotherhood’s political arm, Morsi was mocked by rivals as “the spare tire,” an unsubtle allusion to the fact that he was not his party’s preferred standard bearer. But the party’s first choice, Khairat al-Shater, a millionaire businessman and Morsi’s mentor, was disqualified because of a criminal record stemming from charges, likely fabricated, during the Mubarak years. When attempts to reinstate al-Shater failed, Morsi filed his nomination papers on the last possible day.

(PHOTOS: Thousands in Cairo Protest Morsi’s Decree)

Although he is avuncular up close, Morsi proved a colorless campaigner: his stump speeches were dull, he skipped the sole televised debate, and even his own commercials seemed designed to hide him from view. He won less than a quarter of the vote in May’s first round of balloting, and it was only the Brotherhood’s disciplined political organization that allowed him to squeak through the runoff election on June 16 and 17 with 51.7%.

Lacking a ringing mandate, much discernible charisma or experience in political combat, Morsi seemed poorly equipped to take on either the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF), the cabal of generals that had run the country since Mubarak’s ouster, or the judiciary made up mostly of judges appointed by the former dictator. After the runoff vote but before the results were announced, the Constitutional Court declared Egypt’s first free parliamentary elections illegal, empowering SCAF to dissolve the body where Morsi’s party had a plurality of seats. The generals also announced an interim decree that insulated the military from civilian control and effectively gave the generals veto rights over any new constitution. If SCAF was determined to undermine Morsi’s authority, he was unlikely to get any help from liberal and secular parties, which have long feared the Brotherhood’s Islamist agenda. Morsi looked like a lame duck even before he had been sworn in. “My expectations from him could not have been lower,” says Heba Morayef, Egypt director of Human Rights Watch. “His hands seemed completely tied.”

But they were not. On assuming the presidency, he displayed a previously hidden talent for deft public stagecraft: during his inaugural speech in Tahrir Square, he opened his jacket to reveal that he, unlike Mubarak, didn’t need a bulletproof vest, suggesting he was a man of the people, Then, less than two months after his swearing-in, he astonished both his allies and his critics by replacing several top generals and making himself SCAF’s chairman. How he pulled this off remains something of a mystery: some Egyptians suspect Morsi made a Faustian pact with the top brass. Others speculate he found some incriminating evidence against them. It’s more likely he did an end run around the old guard and appealed to the second-tier officers who were weary of waiting for their turn to rule.

MORE: Egypt’s Morsi: Has He Started Something He Can’t Finish?

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59 comments
abodooma
abodooma

A tyrant wouldn't invite the opposition leaders 7 times to get their opinion in political events and 7 times they refuse his invites... A tyrant wouldn't take back 3 official decrees to please the opposition...

As a matter of fact I think he is a little weak when it comes to internal politics.. I think he shouldn't pay so much attention to them as they're minorities and Egyptians always vote against him.. They will never be satisfied no matter how he tries

سليمان
سليمان

قوله تعالى {إِنْ يَنْصُرْكُمُ اللَّهُ فَلَا غَالِبَ لَكُمْ وَإِنْ يَخْذُلْكُمْ فَمَنْ ذَا الَّذِي يَنْصُرُكُمْ مِنْ بَعْدِهِ وَعَلَى اللَّهِ فَلْيَتَوَكَّلِ الْمُؤْمِنُونَ} [آل عمران: 160] رئيس مصر رجل مؤمن لا يخاف الا الله و لن يكون تانبع لاحد سواء امريكا او غيرها

ybe123
ybe123

Give the egyptian chance? The main guy of terrorist organization which is mother of Hamas become a president! What kind of chance?He just waiting to receive the money from UN and USA. It will take some time to see him as sheep.So the voters who “actually don’t care about politics” have excuse and could choose him as man of the year. Please do not pretend to be blind like Europeans. 

heshoh64
heshoh64

Dears all egyptians first i am not a Muslim brother or anything else i amjust egyptianjust i wanna say give president morsi chance to cross thecrisis in egypt and if not we will go together to tahrer squair to tel him youhave to go. But right now he didn't get any real chance.

WilliamBalaz
WilliamBalaz

anyone who oppresses the process of government that suppress the checks and balances of a democracy would be considered a dictator sounds like morris

Brown
Brown

Morsi is a front man to a very dangerous fanatic organization based on flawed religious ideologies of the 7th century. 

It leaves me a very happy camper into 2013 he is not selected to be Time man of the year.

It would have been depressing.

adbasi9
adbasi9

Morsi is the optimal solution for Arab countries regardless the people who are supported by Jewish such as Albaradee and Omro Mosa. Morsi is the best leader among Arab presidents. 

Adel
Adel

For ages Egypt used to enjoy a tolerant, peaceful and moderate society.

There is no place for extremism, we will fight to live liberal, equal and friendly.

Adel Mostafa Ibrahim

adelonleave@gmail.com

ya3amo
ya3amo

Oh God, people here says he is a layer, been thing what would layer mean here :D 

AlHooLy
AlHooLy

Morsi♥Morsi √ Morsi ♥Morsi ♥ Morsi √ Morsi ♥Morsi ♥Morsi √ Morsi ♥Morsi ♥Morsi √ Morsi ♥Morsi ♥Morsi √ Morsi ♥Morsi ♥Morsi √ Morsi ♥Morsi ♥Morsi √Morsi ♥Morsi ♥ Morsi √ Morsi ♥Morsi ♥Morsi √ Morsi ♥Morsi ♥ Morsi √Morsi ♥Morsi ♥Morsi √ Morsi ♥Morsi ♥ Morsi √ Morsi ♥Morsi ♥Morsi √ Morsi♥Morsi ♥ Morsi √ MorsiRead more: http://world.time.com/2012/11/28/morsis-moment/#ixzz2E60NkL9h

hassan_ismail
hassan_ismail

ارحــــــــــــــــــــــــل

hassan_ismail
hassan_ismail

الشعب يريد اسقاط النظام يسقط يسقط حكم المرشد

Tewkmanvin
Tewkmanvin

Mr. Morsi is intent upon becoming a theocratic dictator. It is interesting that neither the US nor Israesl is expressing very much concern.Should we continue to give Egypt $1 billon in aid each year? This is money that we do not have.

إنجيمحمد
إنجيمحمد

Morsi♥Morsi √ Morsi ♥Morsi ♥ Morsi √ Morsi ♥Morsi ♥Morsi √ Morsi ♥Morsi ♥Morsi √ Morsi ♥Morsi ♥Morsi √ Morsi ♥Morsi ♥Morsi √ Morsi ♥Morsi ♥Morsi √Morsi ♥Morsi ♥ Morsi √ Morsi ♥Morsi ♥Morsi √ Morsi ♥Morsi ♥ Morsi √Morsi ♥Morsi ♥Morsi √ Morsi ♥Morsi ♥ Morsi √ Morsi ♥Morsi ♥Morsi √ Morsi♥Morsi ♥ Morsi √ Morsi

mghoneim2004
mghoneim2004

Most of Egyptians are supporting you Morsi. Go ahead and clean the remnants of the old regime

DonQuixotic
DonQuixotic

Why is his head so small in that photo?

khagaraj
khagaraj

In Obama's language Morsi could be defined as a " bump-on-the-road " democrat.

MhmdAli
MhmdAli

Morsi is a big layer , I am one of the youth who participated in the 25th January revolution from the 1st day . I am in Tahrir square now protesting against this new dictator , who rule with the name of Islam , really a big layer . We dream with a new modern liberalized developed country ,this is our dream not a new Iran in the middle east , go to the hill Morsi .

M_Shehata1
M_Shehata1

نعم كل المصريين العاقلين يصطفون خلف رئيسهم الذى لا اشك فى نزاهته قيد انمله حتى يثبت عكس ذلك

AmrmohyEldin
AmrmohyEldin

I vote for Morsi to transfer Egypt to real democratic ,achieving our dreams & I sure he do now .People who are anti are just jealous for his success.The Egyptians trust in Morsi

zacoto
zacoto

Who are those people in Tahrir square.. Morse did what people wants him to do, Morse achieved some of the revolution goals ..I tell you who is there..the same  paid thugs that killed and beat the protesters in  2011, The thieves from the former party  that roped Egypt and gave its resources away.. the hungry power like Baradei and Sabahi ..and I promos you there are millions and millions of humbled  Morse supporters that will out number those people by far, that love and respect their president ..and are  not from the muslim brotherhood .. just like 

Anwar
Anwar

GO AHEAD MORSI, WE'RE ALL BEHIND YOU...

WaheedZakaria
WaheedZakaria

As an Egyptian, I feel like Mr. Bobby Ghosh has insulted my intelligence! Sir you are promoting the Muslim Brotherhood lies! The judges that Morsi are trying to get rid of are not part of the old regime, they are the ones who put Mubarak behind bars for God sake! how did you buy the brotherhood lies? Do you also know that article 220 of the draft constitution they are trying to pass basically implement the "rulings" and not the "principals" of the Islamic Sharia? which means that the testimony of a non-Muslim in court is void if it is challenged by a Muslim's testimony. It means the death penalty to anyone suspected of blaspheming against Islam.. it means a Taliban Egypt.. so please ask around , get your facts straight before jumping into conclusions!

NabilHanna
NabilHanna

I scorned Morsi in  dealing with true marchers ,demonstrators and protesters

mabaza
mabaza

Keep going Murci. We are all behind.

KompasCom
KompasCom

BreakNews KOMPAS.Com from Broken indonesia:

the indonesian stupid rulers must be fallen first to be the 7 new countries before solving the media's regulation. 

Demoncrats.

hsknyc
hsknyc

Morsi was able to accomplish more in his first half year as Egyptian president than all of US Presidents for the past forty years.  I say we give this guy a chance.  And if the people of Egypt want an Islamic state, let them have it.  Don't come calling to us when the building start exploding and bombs starts falling...

سليمان
سليمان

@ybe123 Of 100 million Indians were killed in North America?Do the Muslims kill them

سليمان
سليمان

@ybe123 من قتل 100 مليون هندي في امريكا الشماليه ؟ هل المسلمون فعلو ذلك

AhmedIbrahimKormod
AhmedIbrahimKormod

@MhmdAli dont speak on behalf of all egyptians, you can speak only with ppl around you, who said that i'm with what you are doing ? if 2 million in the street ( which i doubt ) out of 52 million have the right to vote, so with small math, you guys represent 3.7% thats if 2 million really on the street, so in which bases you speak on behalf of all of us, if you dont like him , so go make him go by democracy way, not by burning and killing and forcing your opinion to the rest of 97%, same talks for the ppl with him , learn the democracy man

nilefax
nilefax

@MhmdAli انا مواطن مصرى مسلم انتخبت دكتور محمد مرسى ايمانا بالفكرة الاسلامية لأن مصر دولة اسلامية ولاتناقض بين الاسلام والحداثة ومن يلوم الدول الاسلامية على تخلفها ياليته قبله يلوم على الاحتلال الغربى الصليبى لتلك الدول ويلوم ايضا على الحكام العملاء امثال حستى حمارك وشفيق

سليمان
سليمان

@akram.nabil و الشعب قال كلمته ومرسي عمل اللي هو عاوزه ليك شوق في حاجه ؟

nilefax
nilefax

@akram.nabil d'nt care mr pres morsy about felol and criminals we all support you

zacoto
zacoto

 I promise you there are  much more support Morse than you can dream of....The thugs in Tahrir do not mean the majority of people.they are being pushed by the former party thieves ..the once that do not want the country to move on, the once that roped the country..so don't be a hater...Say the truth what do you really know?!!!, and why are you there...?!!!