Sisi says no to reconciliation with Islamists
Egypt’s newly sworn-in President Abdel-Fattah al-Sisi urged for the return of moderate Islam
Egypt’s newly sworn-in President Abdel-Fattah al-Sisi declared himself at a speech on Sunday as a leader for “all Egyptians” but promised that there will not be any reconciliation with anyone who had “committed crimes” or “adopted violence” against the Egyptian people, a thinly veiled reference to the now-banned Muslim Brotherhood and other Islamists.
However, Sisi did not mention the Brotherhood by name or supporters of the ousted former Islamist President Mohammad Mursi, the leader he ousted in July after just one year in office, when addressing a gathering at Cairo’s Quba palace late Sunday mere hours after he was sworn in as Egypt’s president before the Supreme Constitutional Court.
Sisi said his top focus would be on fighting terrorism in the “coming phase.”
“Defeating terrorism and achieving security is the top priority in our coming phase,” Reuters quoted Sisi as saying.
Click here to listen to Sisi’s entire speech.
While promising to defend rights of the poor and low-income Egyptians, he said social justice will be the basis of Egypt’s development.
Sisi also vowed to support investment in Egypt’s agricultural and manufacturing sectors and the creation of new jobs.
He also called for a return of moderate Islam, highlighting roles of al-Azhar and the Coptic Church “in unifying the country.”
Al-Azhar is considered to be the center of Sunni Islam learning.
He cited the example of Mohammed Abdu, a renowned 19th century Egyptian Islamist jurist and liberal reformer.
The former army chief reiterated Abdu’s statement when the latter said “I found Islam but with no Muslims in Europe, and Muslims with no Islam” when he returned home, in a comparison to European social justice and societal advancement.
Sisi, who is a 59-year-old career soldier, vowed for a “civil state” in an attempt to dilute fears of skeptics who warned of a return to military rule, which has dominated the country political scene since the overthrow of King Farouk in 1952.
“The military institution is for the people and with the people,” he said.
He also linked Egypt’s security to that of the Gulf states and the rest of the Arab region, saying that any attempt to threaten their national security would be the crossing of a “red line.”
Egypt’s new president
Sisi was sworn into office on Sunday at Cairo’s Supreme Constitutional Court as he sat next to former interim President Adly Mansour in front of court officials.
Among those present at the ceremony was al-Azhar Grand Imam Ahmed El-Tayyeb, Coptic Orthodox Pope Tawadros II, interim Prime Minister Ibrahim Mahlab and other ministers, along with former Prime Ministers Hazem al-Beblawy and Kamal al-Ganzouri.
Following the swearing-in ceremony, Sisi made his way to the presidential palace.
Before Sisi took the oath of office, Egypt’s national anthem was played followed by Quran recitation inside the court. Sisi took office after a 96 percent landslide win in last month’s presidential election.
After being sworn in as the sixth president of Egypt, Sisi then headed to Ittihadiya Palace in Cairo, where state TV broadcast images of foreign heads of state arriving at the ceremony.
Among the top Gulf officials attending the Ittihadiya celebrations are Kuwaiti Emir Sheikh Sabah al-Ahmed al-Jaber al-Sabah, Saudi Arabian Crown Prince Salman bin Abdulaziz al-Saud and Abu Dhabi’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed bin Sultan al-Nahyan.
Monarchs of Bahrain and Jordan as well as the Palestinian, Eritrean and Somali presidents are expected to attend too.
Along with Israel and Syria, Turkey and Qatar were left off the guest list amid bitter ties following Mursi’s one-year rule. Both countries have been critical of Egypt’s new rulers.
Amid street celebrations in Cairo, an image was taken of Sisi supporters holding a banner featuring burning Israeli, Turkey and Qatar flags outside the Constitutional Court.
Still, the heavy presence of leaders from the Middle East is a great show of Arab support for Sisi, according to Emad el-Din Hussein, the Editor-in-Chief of Egypt’s al-Shorouk newspaper.
“The inauguration is a display of Sisi’s strengths, with strong public backing of the new leader, as well as strong foreign diplomatic backing.
“Sisi now enjoys popular legitimacy, legal legitimacy and regional and international legitimacy as president,” Hussein added.
With the Egyptian flag draped over their shoulders, crowds of people outside the Constitutional Court ecstatically waved pictures and banners in support of the former army chief as he arrived at the venue in a blacked-out car.
“The millions support Sisi,” said one man, wearing a t-shirt printed with Sisi’s image next to a lion, outside the court. “We came here today for him. We will do anything for him to know how much we love him and wanted him to become our president,” he added, pointing to the picture on his t-shirt.
Many in the crowd had traveled from other governorates to be part of celebrations due to be held across Cairo throughout the day, hoping to catch a glimpse of the president-elect.
Another Sisi supporter, Ibrahim Amer, travelled from Dakahlia – northeast of Cairo – with his 14-year-old son to join the crowds outside the court.
“We’re here to cheer for the man who has given us fresh hope after a terrible past year,” Amer said, referring to the violence that erupted across Egypt since the army-led ouster of Mursi.
Cairo-based Egyptian blogger Ahmed Emad outlined challenges Sisi should tackle.
“Economy is bad, tourism is bad, there is little security on the street, unemployment is high, too many power cuts, the list goes on,” Emad said.
During his presidential campaign, Sisi did not publicize his agenda. However he did hint at possible austerity cuts and implementing a tax for Egyptians living abroad.
“The guy has already said he doesn’t have a magic wand, which we understand, but there should be at least some change seen or felt on the ground in the first six months or so,” Emad added.
“The only realistic thing that Sisi has promised is austerity, but I think a pretty substantial portion of his adoring masses actually think he's going to make the country flourish for them,” Walter Armbrust, an Egyptian political expert and lecturer in Modern Middle East Studies at Oxford University, told Al Arabiya News.
“He needs a new form of hegemony to make the exercise of power function smoothly in the background. He needs a political body. I imagine that's what the parliamentary elections will be about,” Armbrust added.
The inauguration ceremony will be followed by a reception at Cairo’s Ittihadiya Palace which heads of state, ministers and diplomats are set to attend. A second reception will be held in Cairo’s Quba Palace with guests from several political groups, according to state news agency MENA.