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What will Mursi do? - ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive
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With our utmost attention, we listened to the new Egyptian President Mohammed Mursi’s first speech. We are all eager to be acquainted with the new president as well as with his political orientation, as expressed by his moderate but somewhat vague speech. One of the most prominent headlines was Mursi’s pledge that his country would not interfere in the affairs of other countries, in a clear message intended to reassure the Gulf States, Jordan and other regional powers.

Although many were satisfied by Mursi’s first speech, we must still be aware of the reservations of others, and act to reassure them on the various outstanding issues that the Muslim Brotherhood opposed one way or another during the Mubarak era. For example, the Brotherhood’s stance towards the massacres committed by its ex-ally the al-Assad regime in Syria was not firm enough, as its condemnation of what is going on in Syria now is not enough.

There are numerous questions regarding President Mursi’s political orientation and which direction he intends to move towards. For example, what would he do if Israel attacked Hamas in Gaza? Would he order the Egyptian armed forces to intervene? The other question is: Which side will he take in the continual disagreement over the representation of the Palestinian people? Will he side with the Palestinian Authority, presided over by Mahmoud Abbas, or will he back the disputed government in Gaza presided over by Ismail Haniyeh?

We are all keen to see whether Mursi will accept or refuse to meet the Israeli ambassador in Cairo, and what if a new ambassador was appointed by Tel Aviv? To whom would the new ambassador present his credentials? Mursi said previously that he will respect the agreements signed by Egypt, so does this mean that he will maintain relations with Israel?

If this is to happen, will the Egyptian president cease the mediations his country once sponsored between the Palestinians and the Israelis? Furthermore, what is his stance towards what is happening in Sudan, with the potential for confrontations to develop in Khartoum, and Sudan’s unpopular President Omar al-Bashir expressing his delight at the Muslim Brotherhood’s victory in Egypt?

In the Iranian domain, the issue is no less problematical or critical. As Iran has long been a strong ally of the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt, will the new president decide to resume relations with Tehran under the pretext that Iran has embassies and ambassadors in the Gulf States, or will he refrain from doing so in order to avoid sending the wrong message to his neighbors in the Gulf and the Western powers?

Will he remain silent about Iran’s ideological and religious activities that have intensified ever since the ouster of Mubarak, as seen in Tehran’s support for local groups and attempts to spread the Shiite ideology amongst some Egyptian circles? This is something al-Azhar has already criticized, warning that Egypt could be threatened with sectarian conflict!

What is President Mursi’s attitude towards combating terrorism? Is the President ready to order the pursuit of al-Qaeda tomorrow if it decides to strike, for example, tourist areas? What will happen to Egypt’s international security cooperation, once a major component of Mubarak’s counter-terrorism policy? What would Mursi do if some wanted elements of al-Qaeda sought refuge in Egypt, and then countries like the US or Saudi Arabia asked for them to be handed over?

In his speech yesterday, Mursi pledged not to intervene in other countries’ affairs, but which side will he take, for example, if a clash erupts between the Muslim Brotherhood’s offshoot in Jordan and the government there?

A highly probable challenge that Mursi will no doubt face is regarding his actions towards human rights organizations and Western foreign ministries. How will he act if they criticize his government, should it seek to tighten its grip on freedoms in the name of religion, or if it allowed courts to prosecute artists, or if the Egyptian Ministry of Information confiscates books and closes down television channels under religious pretexts?

As for the internal sphere, the list of challenges is even longer, most prominently the impending clash with the intellectual current. The Muslim Brotherhood’s religious ideology remains at odds with a wide spectrum of intellectuals, so to what extent is Mursi capable of respecting the cultural freedoms that existed during the Mubarak era?

Such issues are likely to stir up the radical wing within the Brotherhood, as well as the Salafi groups, which will undertake the prevention of whatever they deem to be a vice. What will Mursi do then? Will he send the police to arrest his comrades in the Freedom and Justice Party, or will he let everyone express themselves however they please?

Therefore, one speech is certainly not enough for us to become acquainted with the new Egyptian President.

Abdulrahman Al-Rashed

Abdulrahman Al-Rashed

Abdulrahman Al-Rashed is the former general manager of Al-Arabiya television. He is also the former editor-in-chief of Asharq Al-Awsat, and the leading Arabic weekly magazine Al-Majalla. He is also a senior columnist in the daily newspapers Al-Madina and Al-Bilad. He has a US post-graduate degree in mass communications, and has been a guest on many TV current affairs programs. He is currently based in Dubai.

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