Mohamed Morsi, former member of the Egyptian parliament and former head of the Muslim Brotherhood’s Freedom and Justice Party, was elected president of Egypt on Sunday, beating out Hosni Mubarak-era prime minister Ahmed Shafik by a slim margin of 4 percent.
It’s a move that brought celebration from Muslim Brotherhood supporters — the organization was barred from political participation for many years during Mubarak’s regime — but also concern. This wariness is partly linked to the Brotherhood’s broad, potently pro-Islam stance, which advocates the religion as the base for social and political policy.
But while Morsi’s critics have much to say about the new president, the only thing the U.S. can and should do is be fully supportive of Egypt’s — and Morsi’s — new sovereignty, concerns or otherwise. After all, America’s support of Mubarak’s overthrow also made support of an Egyptian democracy crystal clear. Undermining the Egyptian people’s election of Morsi, even in light of potentially unsavory political stances that go against the United States’ strategic desires, can only do harm to America’s relationship with Egypt, a critical player in the Middle Eastern conflict.
To be fair, there’s enough history to raise questions of Morsi’s plans for the country. The new president was a long-time supporter and foot soldier for the Brotherhood, from becoming a member of an “anti-Zionist” committee in the late ’80s to promising to install Shariah law — policies based on fundamentalist Islam, criticized by many for being repressive — early in his presidential campaign.
In fact, these promises constitute the biggest red flag for Egyptians and the country’s international partners alike. As Miami Herald world affairs columnist Frida Ghitis points out, the Brotherhood once promised to run for only a minority of seats in the parliament. It also vowed to draft a constitution with the inclusion of a diverse group of more than just Islamists. And ironically, Morsi himself insisted that the Brotherhood would not offer a presidential candidate.
All these promises were broken. Morsi, looking for the moderate vote, flip-flopped and ditched his fundamentalist campaign, appearing on posters next to Christian priests and women while promising diverse support for all Egyptian groups.
In the meantime, the Brotherhood won 40 percent of the parliament (recently disbanded by the Egyptian courts), combining with the more radical Salafi party to have a two-thirds Islamist majority. And the constitution “task force” contained a hefty Islamist majority, inciting certain groups to file lawsuits and leading to the court-ordered disbandment of the panel.
In light of this and other concerns, including the future of Egypt’s relationship with Israel, it will be tempting for the U.S. to have a finger on the panic button, ready to unleash sanctions, passive-aggressive conferences, stern words and the like. There’s also intense curiosity about how Morsi will deal with the military council, which as of late has taken much of the power away from the presidential post.
Regardless of how things pan out, the U.S. has to resist the urge to intervene or influence action. As a nation, we chose to support the Egyptian citizenry’s quest for democracy. To intervene would only serve as a slap in the face, a patronizing reminder of America’s strategic jockeying for position in Middle Eastern matters, and would only inflame sentiment in the country’s increasing Islamist base.
Eddie Kim is a senior majoring in print and digital journalism and editorial director for the Summer Trojan.