Will Mursi's Egypt become a new Iran?


Egyptian President Mohammed Mursi’s recent decisions were seen by critics as an attempt to convert Egypt into an Islamic single-party state, but analysts downplay those fears citing Egypt’s moderate nature and its cultural diversity.

Some political experts interviewed by Al Arabiya English cited moderation and tolerance as major characteristics of Egypt, adding that any attempt to change these “deep-rooted facts” and transform Egypt into an Islamic nation will fail.

In a constitutional declaration issued last Thursday, President Mursi decreed that his decisions cannot be revoked by any authority, including the judiciary, thereby setting himself above the law, as many observers argue.

The former member of the Muslim Brotherhood also sacked Prosecutor General Abdel Meguid Mahmoud and appointed a replacement. The president also ordered a retrial of former regime figures accused of killing demonstrators during last year’s violence.

In another decree, the president protected an assembly writing the country's new constitution from dissolution and gave it extra time to finish its work.

In the constitutional declaration, Mursi essentially widened his powers, in a move that raised fears he might turn into a dictator.

Thousands of Egyptians took to the streets with hundreds still gathering at the Tahrir Square, calling for the downfall of the president and the Muslim Brotherhood.

Ayman Abdul Waham, a political expert at Al Ahram Center for Political and Strategic Studies, said there is “no way” that Egypt will transform into an Islamic nation like the Islamic Republic of Iran, citing qualities of moderation, liberalism, tolerance he said characterize the Arab World’s largest nation.

“Those who attempt to transform Egypt into an Islamic state are unaware that the country’s mosaic and its cultural diversity will reject that,” Abdul Waham said.

Advocates of political Islam in Egypt are “so eager” to turn Egypt into an Islamic nation, he said, adding that civil and liberal powers will stand firm to prevent this from happening.

“Certain facts emerged in Egypt after the Jan. 25 Revolution that every leader ruling the country has to be aware of,” Abdul Waham said, explaining that “the Egyptian people, especially the youth, will no longer allow a certain minority or group to shape their history and determine their fate.”

But the political expert admitted that liberal movements, unlike the Muslim Brotherhood Movement, are divided and that this has given Islamists the upper hand in the Egyptian scene.

“Indications show that the liberal and civil powers are becoming more organized, probably having seen the Muslim Brotherhood trying to dominate the country,” Abdul Wahab said, adding that “once the liberal, secular and other civil powers become fully coherent; there will be balance in Egypt’s political formula.”

Emphasizing that Mursi’s recent decisions were not meant to impose a “totalitarian regime” or increase the influence of the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt, Mohammed Jaafar, professor of law at Beni-Suef University, said “Mursi’s decisions were administrative and not ideological but even if that was his quest, the cultural qualities of the Egyptian people will not allow it.”

“The cultural diversity of Egypt and its mosaic will not allow any transformation of the country into an ethnical or ideological state …under whatsoever circumstances; the Iran example cannot be replicated in Egypt.”

Omar Ashour, Director of Middle East Studies at the University of Exeter, however, warned of Mursi’s “undemocratic” acts, saying that such moves “occur in transition periods, and in most cases, they lead to dictatorships, not democracy.”