Wednesday, Jun 20, 2012
(From THE WALL STREET JOURNAL)
By Matt Bradley
CAIRO -- Mohammed Morsi rose through the ranks of the Muslim Brotherhood with a reputation as an uncompromising conservative who prizes hierarchy over consensus.
He now stands to play a central role in Egypt's political future, whether as his country's first freely elected president or the man who was denied the job. With his conservative record and his past reluctance to challenge Egypt's military leaders, Mr. Morsi could find it hard to rally Egypt's more liberal opposition behind him.
The Morsi campaign insists he is the winner of the weekend's presidential election, while his opponent, Ahmed Shafiq, has also declared victory. Official results are expected on Thursday.
Mr. Morsi has been a central figure in a clique of conservative Brotherhood leaders led by Khairat al-Shater, who was the organization's choice as presidential candidate until the election commission excluded him from the race in April.
Mr. Shater's group led efforts to sideline more liberal members, unify the organization and, after President Hosni Mubarak resigned last year, prevent members from challenging Egypt's military leadership, current and former Brotherhood members said.
"That whole clique -- like most Brotherhood leaders, they never took liberals that seriously and they were always dismissive toward them," said Shadi Hamid, an expert on the Brotherhood at the Brookings Doha Center in Qatar. "Their idea of democracy is not driven by consensus."
Mr. Morsi's supporters in the Muslim Brotherhood say his tendencies serve him well. "He has vision, he has strong stances and defends them to the last moment, but adheres to the opinion of the majority in the end," said Rashad al-Bayoumi, a member of Mr. Shater's inner circle. "That's what we need in a leader."
His youngest brother, Said Mohammed Morsi -- who lives alongside his eldest brother -- remembers his sibling as a studious and religious boy, the only one of his family of eight to memorize the entire Quran.
To this day, Mr. Morsi still lectures his chain-smoking younger brother on the evils of cigarettes and phones him in the morning to pray predawn devotions required of observant Muslims.
Mr. Morsi headed in 1978 to the U.S. to earn his doctorate in engineering at the University of Southern California and later, to teach engineering at California State University in Northridge. At a recent women's conference, he recalled with disgust a restaurant in America where "service is provided by naked women."
Mr. Morsi returned to Egypt in 1985, where he taught engineering for the next two decades. The former deputy head of the Brotherhood, Mohammed Habib, recalls Mr. Morsi as an intelligent man with a flair for administration -- but an apparatchik at heart, a leader who toed the party line and lacked creativity, he says.
In 2001, Mr. Shater, the leader of the conservative bloc of the organization and its principal financier, took Mr. Morsi under his wing, appointing him to the group's powerful executive Guidance Office.
Like many Brotherhood leaders, Mr. Shater drew his heft within the party in part from his long years spent in prison under Mr. Mubarak -- a badge of honor in an organization where devotion is measured by sacrifice.
Prison terms informed the Brotherhood's insularity, resistance to criticism and culture of victimization. Mr. Morsi, having spent only a few months in prison during 2006, lacked the self-sacrificial bona fides of other Brotherhood leaders -- giving him cause to defer to them. To this day, Mr. Morsi has struggled to shed his reputation as Mr. Shater's subordinate.
In 2007, Mr. Morsi was selected to lead the drafting of the Brotherhood's first political platform. The document sparked immediate controversy with a proposal that neither women nor members of Egypt's large Christian minority could be president. It also proposed that a council of Islamic scholars vet legislation.
When youth members balked, Mr. Morsi invited around a dozen to a meeting at Brotherhood headquarters. "He was very authoritarian," said Abdul Rashman Ayyash, a former youth member who was present. "He said the decision to prevent women and Christians from running for president is a religious one, and we don't need anyone to convince us otherwise."
Several years later, at the height of the uprising that felled Mr. Mubarak, Mr. Morsi and his conservative faction outraged revolutionaries by meeting with Prime Minister Omar Suleiman.
After Mr. Mubarak's fall, the Brotherhood urged members to stay away from protests against the country's military leadership. When youth members bristled, Mr. Morsi led an effort to push hundreds of youth out of the organization in internal tribunals, according to Mr. Ayyash, who quit the organization last summer, and Sameh al Barqi, a Brotherhood member who said Mr. Morsi was a singular force in his own expulsion from the group.
To Mr. Barqi and other likeminded youth, a Morsi presidency will likely be defined by single-minded loyalty to Brotherhood unity.
Mohammed Morsi's Emergence
The rise of a Muslim Brotherhood leader
-- 1978 -- Graduates from Cairo University with a master's in engineering. Leaves to U.S. to study at the University of Southern California and to teach. Returns home in 1985.
-- 2000 -- Among 17 Brotherhood members elected to Parliament.
-- 2007 -- Drafts the Brotherhood's first political platform-- a plan that outrages moderates with its stated opposition to women and Christians in the presidency.
-- 2011 -- Made the head of the Brotherhood's new political party, Freedom and Justice.
-- 2012 -- Nominated as the party's presidential candidate after the Election Commission disqualifies the first choice.
(END) Dow Jones Newswires