2. Mohammed Morsi (1951-): the pious academic with humble origins

Mohammed Morsi

Mohammed Morsi’s official biography on his campaign website for Egypt’s 2012 presidential election stresses his humble origins and his academic achievements, while Morsi himself stresses during his campaign rallies more his conservative and Islamic background.

Mohammed Morsi, full name doctor engineer Mohammed Mohammed Morsi ‘Isa al-‘Ayat, was born on 8 August 1951 in the small village ‘Adawa near the town of Hehiya in the Delta (Sharqiya province). His father was a farmer, while his mother stayed home with Mohammed and his three brothers and two sisters. Morsi reminisced during a campaign rally how his mother taught him prayer and the Quran.

After completing high school, Mohammed went to study Engineering at Cairo University in 1970. He obtained his Bachelor in 1975 and his Master in Metallurgy in 1978. In between he fulfilled his army duty (1975-1976) as a soldier trained in chemical warfare. After his Master, Morsi worked some time as assistant-teacher at the faculty of Engineering at Cairo University before he went to the USA, where he obtained his PhD at the University of Southern California in 1982. According to his official biography, he worked in California as assistant-lecturer and assistant-professor at several Californian universities (University of Southern California, University of North Ridge and University of California – Los Angeles) before returning to Egypt in 1985. Back in Egypt, he became head of department of Materials Science in the faculty of Engineering in the University of Zagazig in the Delta until 2010. His official biography highlights in broad lines his scientific work on the “treatment of the surfaces of metal” and his work in California on projects paid by NASA.

In the meantime, Mohammed Morsi married his wife with whom he got 5 children. Two of them were born during his stay in the USA and have therefore a US-passport. Both Morsi and his wife are loyal members of the Muslim Brotherhood. Morsi was politically active in the Sharqiyya Province, where he was member of the Committee against Zionism and founding member of the National Committee against the Zionist Plan. His official biography does not mention the agenda of these organisations, but we can assumed that their agenda reflected Morsi’s and the Muslim Brotherhoods opposition to Israel.

In the 90’s Morsi joined the Guidance Council of the Muslim Brotherhood and began to run for parliament. Although the Muslim Brotherhood was officially an illegal movement, the Mubarak regime allowed Muslim Brothers to run as “independents”. In 2000 Morsi was elected for the People’s Assembly and he became the head of the Muslim Brotherhood-block in parliament until 2005. During his time in parliament, Morsi proposed several laws and amendments to fight corruption or for more press and political freedom.

Morsi was arrested in May 2006 during a Muslim Brotherhood protest against election fraud, after he had lost his seat in the 2005 parliamentarian elections. He was released from jail in December 2006. Morsi’s campaign made lot of fuss of this short incarnation, branding Morsi as one of the leading political figures in the fight against the Mubarak regime in the past ten years.

In 2007 several young, progressive Muslim Brothers began to demand reforms within the Muslim Brotherhood, calling for a more democratic leadership and the revision of some of its controversial viewpoints, like the exclusion of Copts and women from presidency. Morsi was sent by the leadership to negotiate with this group, but his conservatism and his bullish behaviour towards the younger Muslim Brothers only added to the conflict between this group and the leadership of the Muslim Brotherhood.

Many of these younger Muslim Brothers joined the protests in Tahrir square on 25 January 2011 against the orders of the Muslim Brotherhood to stay out of the protests. Many of these younger Muslim Brothers were subsequently thrown out of the movement for disobeying its orders. This events contrast starkly with Morsi’s official biography, which stresses his commitment to the “glorious revolution of 25 January” by highlighting Morsi’s arrest and imprisonment during the protests a few days later.

When the Muslim Brotherhood founded in 2011 its political party, the Freedom and Justice Party (FJP), Morsi was elected as its president. The FJP became Egypt’s largest party in the 2011-2012 parliamentarian elections. The FJP obtained nearly half of the available seats in spite of Morsi’s earlier reassurance that it would not be in the interest of the FJP to win a majority in parliament.

For the 2012 presidential elections, the FJP again retracted an earlier promise. The FJP had promised not to field a candidate and had even thrown Abdelmonein Aboulfoutouh out of the movement when he announced his candidacy. But later the FJP fielded first Khaitar al-Shater, the Muslim Brotherhood’s main sponsor, as its presidential candidate and later Morsi after al-Shater’s disqualification by the Presidential Election Commission in April 2012.

Somewhat unexpected, Morsi won the first round of the presidential elections with nearly 5.8 million votes and currently has to face the former air force commander and Premier Ahmed Shafiq (5.5 million votes) in the second round on 16 and 17 June 2012.

Main internet sources and further reading

– Campaign website Mohammed Morsi – drmorsy2012.com

– Egyptian daily Egypt Independent – egyptindependent.com

– Qatari news organisation al-Jazeera – aljazeera.com

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