Egyptian President Mohammad Morsi’s latest declaration that he rejects discrimination and incitement to violence based on religion is far from satisfactory.
Members of Congress who recently met with Morsi are absolutely correct that the Islamist president needs to show a real commitment to religious tolerance and Egypt’s peace treaty with Israel.
That would be a start.
Comments made by Morsi in 2010, before he took office, inciting hatred of Jews and calling Zionists “pigs” and “bloodsuckers,” recently surfaced. He now says those comments were taken out of context, but has done nothing to deny holding such bigoted beliefs.
Last June, Morsi became Egypt’s first freely elected president and the first Islamist elected to lead an Arab state. He is a veteran member of the Muslim Brotherhood, a vehemently anti-Israeli and anti-American group. Tempting as it might be, the United States cannot just turn its back on Egypt, the powerful neighbor of our only real ally in the region.
For now, at least, Morsi is maintaining the peace treaty with Israel. That may be a political calculation, because Morsi desperately needs our help in propping up his staggering economy.
Members of Congress, in a delegation led by Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., say they will try to persuade Congress to give Egypt $480 million in new assistance.
The delegation’s request will surely be made through clenched teeth. Indeed, McCain made clear in a press conference that the members of Congress “… voiced our strong disapproval of statements he made a few years ago that have recently surfaced.”
President Obama, whom the Egyptian leader called a liar, has already made his strong dissatisfaction known as the White House strongly condemned the slurs. “President Morsi should make clear he respects people of all faiths,” White House press secretary Jay Carney said. But will that be enough?
The question is whether someone who has referred to Zionists as “bloodsuckers who attack Palestinians” and “the descendants of apes and pigs” and suggested Egyptians should nurse their children on “hatred for them: for Zionists, for Jews,” insisting, “They must be breast-fed hatred,” can be trusted.
While a move to the political mainstream seems unlikely, one way to start earning some trust would be to apologize for his offensive comments.