Newly-elected Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi granted a 90-minute interview to the New York Times ahead of his first presidential visit to the United States this week, laying out the changing face of U.S.-Arab relations.
Egypt’s first democratically-elected president, Morsi has been affiliated with the Muslim Brotherhood for decades. In fact, according to the New York Times, Morsi even spent time in jail during Mubarak’s reign for his affiliation with the then-suppressed group.
“I grew up with the Muslim Brotherhood,” Morsi reportedly explained proudly. “I learned my principles in the Muslim Brotherhood. I learned how to love my country with the Muslim Brotherhood. I learned politics with the Brotherhood. I was a leader of the Muslim Brotherhood.”
The New York Times has more on how Morsi says U.S.-Arab relations must change:
He said it was up to Washington to repair relations with the Arab world and to revitalize the alliance with Egypt, long a cornerstone of regional stability.
If Washington is asking Egypt to honor its treaty with Israel, he said, Washington should also live up to its own Camp David commitment to Palestinian self-rule. He said the United States must respect the Arab world’s history and culture, even when that conflicts with Western values.
“If you want to judge the performance of the Egyptian people by the standards of German or Chinese or American culture, then there is no room for judgment,” he said. “When the Egyptians decide something, probably it is not appropriate for the U.S. When the Americans decide something, this, of course, is not appropriate for Egypt.”
He suggested that Egypt would not be hostile to the West, but would not be as compliant as Mr. Mubarak either.
“Successive American administrations essentially purchased with American taxpayer money the dislike, if not the hatred, of the peoples of the region,” he said, by backing dictatorial governments over popular opposition and supporting Israel over the Palestinians. [Emphasis added]
When confronted about essentially removing any counterweight to his absolute authority by replacing the military leaders with men of his choosing, Morsi responded: “We are behaving according to the Egyptian people’s choice and will, nothing else — is it clear?”
Morsi also praised President Obama’s decision to act “decisively and quickly” in support of the so-called “Arab Spring” revolutions throughout the region, according to the New York Times. Apparently, Egyptians just want “the right…to enjoy the same freedoms that Americans have.”
One of the major topics of discussion seemed to be the Camp David Accords, and how Morsi believes the United States is not holding up its end of the bargain. Responsible for decades of peace between Egypt and Israel, Morsi claimed the treaty is “unfulfilled” because Palestinians have not yet achieved statehood.
“As long as peace and justice are not fulfilled for the Palestinians, then the treaty remains unfulfilled,” he stated, though he did not clarify what that means in terms of actual policy changes.
Morsi also discussed his time in California as a graduate student, reportedly saying “Go Trojans!” with a smile.
Apparently the Egyptian president praised American work ethic, punctuality, and time management. When the translator went so far as to relate that Morsi “learned a lot” in the States, however, the president was quick to clarify. Morsi interjected, saying he learned a lot “scientifically,” before lamenting loose Western morals and “naked restaurants” like Hooters.