Egypt is in dire need of borrowing to stabilize its economy and save itself from a true debacle. Since borrowing through the regular monetary establishments, goes against the Islamic tradition, all Islamic parties and factions denounce it. Yes, Islamic banks exist, and have a different set of procedures altogether, but they are only a handful and do not have the liquidity or surplus to provide several billion dollar loans to Egypt.
The Muslim Brotherhood is in a conundrum. They are stymied: one of them—in fact, the one they chose to preside over Egypt—goes against the Islamic norm and receives loans to be paid off with hefty interest rates. They quietly and casually approve the action. It seems as though Morsi, and in turn the Muslim Brotherhood, will have to accept regular lending procedures. Is it change in strategy or acceptance of realities?
The Freedom and Justice Party, aka the Muslim Brotherhood, has always had a clear stance against Israel. It would back Hamas any day, has always proclaimed Israel as the enemy, and has supported the Palestinians in more ways than one—supplying Gaza with electricity while Egypt is suffering from blackouts is a true indication of Morsi’s support.
But when Morsi became president, and setting aside his own inclinations, diplomacy forces him to send and receive correspondence from Israel. More importantly, Morsi has to treat Israel as a bordering country with, sometimes, mutual challenges and with whom Egypt has diplomatic relations and agreements.
Then Muslim fanatics kill 16 Egyptian soldiers along the Israeli border with Egypt. Morsi closes Rafah crossing, bombs the tunnels, and goes after the culprits be they Palestinians or Egyptians. Allegiances and loyalties may change when one comes to power.
Morsi will be visiting the US on September 23.Bilateral relations deem this visit a necessity. From a different perspective, this official visit will entail joining the American President in the White House, meeting female officials, having no mosque in close proximity, and abiding to timelines that don’t take prayer into account. Morsi will again have to handle all this in a diplomatic and presidential manner.
In addition, on other official visits if not this one, protocol requires the president’s wife to partake in such visits. And vice versa, the president’s wife should be there to meet the wives of visiting dignitaries if not the dignitaries themselves. We don’t know how Mrs. Morsi will react; will she avoid such gatherings altogether or show up and participate?
If she prefers to stay away from the limelight, will she be complementing her husband’s role and fulfilling hers? Then if she participates in hosting official figures and their spouses, will she be safe from the wrath of fundamentalists?
One conundrum after another will face the new president. Diplomacy, leadership, governing, and monetary needs may force Morsi to behave in a fashion that may sometimes go totally against what the Islamists consider the norm.
If it were up to rigid fundamentalists, Egypt would be cuffed and chained by prohibitive Islamic measures. Women would stay at home and deliver babies. Music and art would be banned, and Sharia would be the legal composition by which all Egyptians, Copts and moderate Muslims alike, will go about their businesses.
But it remains unknown how far on this extreme path is Morsi willing to go. From the offset, Morsi is extremely religious: he makes time to pray on time and in a mosque even for fajr (sunrise) prayer, he leads prayers on occasions, he is truly moved in the presence of God in Mecca, and he seems to have finalized the debate over his wife’s role temporarily: she will have no role.
Morsi has been put on the spot. The position of leading man in Egypt sometimes may entail either conforming to Islam’s guidelines or dealing with matters in a realistic fashion. It will be interesting to see how this president handles himself in the next while.
And as a consequence, it may cost Morsi his allegiance to his party if he complies with the ways of the world. Necessary actions may cause friction between Morsi and the party he remained loyal to for decades.
In the meantime, Egypt has no guidelines or constitution to follow. In today’s Egypt nothing is standard or ordinary. Quite the contrary, major upheavals and odd routes have led the way. Only the future will tell which route Morsi will take.
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