January 31, 2013

"Give up your arrogant attitude and act in the interest of Egypt"

This remarkable open letter by the Egyptian-German author Hamed Abdel-Samad was published yesterday – prior to President Morsi's arrival in Berlin – in the German magazine SPIEGELonline. It not only prepared the Germans for what they were to expect from their guest, visiting with chancellor Merkel to discuss debt relief and financial aid – it also was a critical welcome message for the Egyptian President on his first arrival in Germany.

As the open letter was only published in German, here you find the English translation:


Dear Mr. Morsi, 

as an Egyptian who has lived in Germany for 17 years, I would have liked to receive the first democratically elected president of my country with a bouquet in Berlin.

Instead, I am obliged to confront you during your visit to Germany with a bunch of questions.

Questions that not only I pose but millions of young Egyptians who are disappointed in you and feel cheated out of their revolution. Questions that Mrs. Merkel should also ask herself before she calls you a "reliable" partner of the Federal Republic and a guarantor of "peace and stability" in the Middle East.

You have been elected democratically, Mr. Morsi, but a democrat you are not. You have come to power by legal means, but your power is not legitimate, as about 52 percent of Egypt's electorate voted for you because you promised to be a president for all Egyptians and to adopt a constitution that would represent all people in the country. You also promised that the objectives of the revolution – freedom, social justice and human dignity – would become the guidelines of your policy. But shortly after your election to many it become clear that you are just a bad copy of Mubarak. Your Muslim brothers kidnapped the constitutional assembly and in a cloak-and-dagger operation adopted a constitution which marginalised the liberal forces as well as the women and Copts. A constitution that expands the power of the President as if you never intended that ever another president will govern the country. The public debate on the new constitution you have nipped in the bud. The controversial draft you have signed immediately and put to the vote in a referendum.

Whoever questioned the plans of the Islamists was an infidel traitor

You have ignored the strong protests against this Constitution.

You have allowed that your followers besieged the Constitutional Court so that it could pass no judgment against the new constitution. You have watched as armed Islamist militias have attacked peaceful demonstrators in front of your palace.

Your followers turned the vote on the constitution into a decision about heaven and hell. Whoever was on your side was a good Muslim. Who questioned the plans of the Islamists was an infidel traitor. And so you deeply divided the country at a time when you should have played the role of the reconciler.

Tell me, Mr. President: What magic powers lie in your throne, which strange scents are sprayed around the presidential palace that in such short time you already behave like your predecessor Mubarak? You look down on the opposition and call your opponents traitors. You only believe reports produced by your confidants and you dance to the tune of the Muslim Brotherhood and Salafis. The most important posts you do not hand to the experts who have the skills but to people who are loyal to you. Also in your speeches you use the same empty phrases like Mubarak on growth, national security and the domestic and foreign conspiracy aimed at destabilising Egypt.

Why are you so thin-skinned, why can't you handle criticism, Mr. Morsi?

Like the party of Mubarak, your Muslim brothers try to gain control over all the institutions of the country at a rapid pace. Municipalities and unions are undermined and independent judges are being removed, critical media are intimidated, while the state media, as in the times of Mubarak, develop into a propaganda apparatus of the President and his entourage.

In one aspect you have even overtaken Mubarak: The number of journalists who are being prosecuted since your inauguration is higher according to the Arab Network for Human Rights Information as in the 30 years of Mubarak rule. For insulting the president alone, 24 journalists currently are under investigation in Egypt.

Why are you so thin-skinned? Why can't you handle criticism of your policies? And how after this great revolution can there be such an accusation as "insulting the president"? Did you forget that today you would not be president of Egypt if the youth of the revolution would not have insulted your predecessor? Journalists under your rule not only are brought to justice, but also deliberately liquidated. One case is especially important to me. Our colleague Al-Husseini Abu Deif was killed in front of your palace by armed Islamists on 5 December 2012.

He was killed by those militias that you had invited to your palace in order to protect you from the angry protesters. Mr President, who has killed Al-Husseini? And why is your judiciary occupied with the persecution of critical journalists rather than worrying about the murderers of Abu Deif? Now, thanks to your policy, chaos is reigning on the streets of Egypt.

Egypt needs strong institutions, transparency, opening

Tourists stay away from the country, domestic and foreign investors flee. The Egyptian pound loses value daily and the country's credit rating is downgraded to the level of Greece. All this because the security in the country and a predictable policy is lacking.

Unlike Iran or Saudi Arabia Egypt can not afford Islamism. The hungry can't feed of the Shari'a, and the youth, who has overcome fear, will not allow a new dictatorship. Even the Salafis and Jihadists, who support you now, soon will turn against you. If these religious zealots realise that you are just a political opportunist and that you do not care for God but for power, they will turn against you. They will declare you an infidel and turn the same weapons against you that you now point against the liberals and will declare the jihad on you.

Although I am a fierce opponent of your policies, I do not wish you to fail because that would also mean the failure of Egypt. I just wish that you give up your arrogant attitude and act in the interest of Egypt and not in the interests of the Muslim Brotherhood.

I left Egypt 17 years ago because I was not able to live there freely. I participated in the revolution two years ago because I wish for a new Egypt. Now I see that we have exchanged one form of paternalism for another. I know that with Mubarak as predecessor you have taken over a difficult legacy, but that legacy can not be the eternal excuse for the failure of your government. Besides, one can not eliminate the legacy of Mubarak with the methods of Mubarak. Egypt needs its women and its Copts just as much as it needs its faithful Muslims. Egypt needs politicians who are familiar with economic, domestic and foreign policy, not experts in prayer and exegesis of the Quran.

Egypt needs strong institutions, transparency and a self-confident, sincere opening.

Dear Mrs. Merkel, Morsi will not hug you

Speaking of sincerity: What is your position today actually on Jews? I'm sure you remember that a few years ago you called the Israelis bloodsuckers and descendants of apes and pigs. You not only demanded that the Egyptians raise their children with hatred against Jews and Zionists but also hatred against their alleged supporters, such as America, France and the whole of Europe. Do you have the decency to apologise to Mrs. Merkel and the German public for your unspeakable remarks before calling for debt relief and development aid? More importantly: can you distance yourself from this in front of the Egyptian public? Will you finally remove this education of hate from the Egyptian educational system? Don't you think that it is time to introduce a new education policy that is not based on self-glorification and demonisation of the other but on respect, free thinking and the ability to self-criticism? Which deals with conflicts on a factual, not on an emotional level?

The last part of my letter, I wish to direct at Madam Chancellor, who is receiving you in Berlin.

Dear Mrs. Merkel, I know that you are not going to embrace Mr. Morsi the way you hugged Mubarak. Your advisors will most certainly have informed you that the Muslim Brothers do not allow women to embrace them in public. But you surely will reach out your hand to him and he is not – as many Islamists – going to reject it, because he needs you. He will talk to you about debt relief, financial support and German investments in Egypt. All this the country of the Nile needs urgently. But do not be hasty, Mrs. Merkel, and please tie this assistance to a democratic development of the country. Not only the observance of democratic elections should be the criterion but also the respect for human rights, protection of minorities and transparency in elections. And please ask for guarantees for the promises of Mr. Morsi, because he's at nothing better than giving empty promises. Egypt needs and deserves your attention, Mrs Merkel, but it too needs and deserves a predictable political leadership that acts on behalf of all Egyptians and does not ignore the main demands of the revolution.