Mohamed Morsi: Hero or Villain?

Egyptian tanks
He served as Egyptian President for little more than a year, before being removed from power by the army. Now he faces the prospect of being charged with treason. Since his overthrow and incarceration, his image has been, somehow, transformed to one of virtual martyr, but is Mohamed Morsi a hero or villain?

Morsi, a long-time member of the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood, managed to bring international credibility to the organization; in the midst of an ongoing, 12-year-old ‘war on terror’, this was quite an achievement. As former President Hosni Mubarak fell to the so-called ‘Arab Spring’, the international community suddenly forgot the legacy of the Muslim Brotherhood, why it was founded and what it aimed to achieve. The Brotherhood was formed in Egypt and has spawned branches in several Arab countries, including Libya and Syria. It’s roots, however, lay not in some populist desire for democracy and freedom; the Brotherhood was founded by individuals who took their political queues from Marxist theory and their religious queues from radical Islamism. The movement gave birth to modern Islamist extremism and terror – among its children; Hamas, which identifies itself as the Palestinian Muslim Brotherhood, and al-Qaeda.

Morsi is extremely supportive of Gaza-based Hamas, who aided his escape from an Egyptian jail in 2011. The goal of Hamas is nothing less than to destroy Israel and replace it with an Islamist state. Morsi also supported the struggle against Syrian strongman Bashar-al-Assad, who faces an opposition force dominated by the Syrian Muslim Brotherhood and al-Qaeda-linked factions. Despite his disturbing history and associations, Morsi seems to have travelled the path from villain to hero.

Given Morsi’s association with the very groups that seek to destroy the western way of life and establish a new Muslim Caliphate and given his past, publicly stated animosity towards both Israel and the United States, the acceptance that he received, from both western Europe and the US, seems counter intuitive. Adding to this is Morsi’s domestic record; during his brief time as Egyptian President; he failed to address the country’s growing economic crisis, seized almost absolute power for himself and declared that his decisions were above judicial scrutiny. Whilst constantly blaming all of Egypt’s problems on the former regime, he did virtually nothing to alleviate them. By the time Egypt’s recent revolution was a year old, the Egyptian people had grown impatient and fearful; angry at fuel shortages and rising prices, and concerned that their recently won freedom from dictatorship was about to be snuffed out, they massed in the streets and demanded Morsi’s ouster. Morsi was given an ultimatum, by the Egyptian military, to make concessions or face removal from office; he chose to ignore this offer – and the will of the people, along with it. This intransigence led, inevitably, to his removal.

Now that Mohamed Morsi finds himself under arrest and awaiting treason and, possibly, other charges; his international image-transformation seems complete; in the US and western Europe, governments and the media are portraying him as the legitimate, democratically elected President who was overthrown in a military coup. Many Egyptians, however, believe that the election that brought him to power was fraudulent. Regardless of whether or not this was the case, it was the Egyptian military that took power from Mubarak and allowed the election to go ahead; without the military’s blessing, Morsi would never have become Egyptian President. His domestic policy failures, his attempted purging of the army’s top leadership and his Muslim Brotherhood’s open disrespect for the military led to his toppling. As western governments – including the US and Germany – demand Morsi’s release from custody, the question remains; is he a hero or villain? Was he a popularly elected President, overthrown by military coup, or a failed dictator-in-waiting, removed from office – for the good of Egypt – by the very people who allowed him get there in the first place?

Graham J Noble

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