MURDOCK: Morsi’s long train of abuse

Egyptians intend to take their chances on the Arab Street

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CAIRO

Muhammad has had it with the Muslim Brotherhood.

From the moment we meet, it takes the 30-something Egyptian three minutes, tops, before he expresses his crashing disappointment with his government.

“On June 30, you will see another revolution,” he predicts, as we approach the Egyptian Museum. “Millions of Egyptians will fill Tahrir Square and other squares around the country. We want the Muslim Brothers out!”

As we admire sarcophagi, masks and mummies in this legendary palace of antiquities, Muhammad barely can contain his frustration with current events.

“The Muslim Brothers,” as he and others here call them, “have craved power for 85 years. Now they have it, and they cannot run anything. We were happy to be rid of [longtime President Hosni] Mubarak, but right now, we would take him back.” Egyptians rallied for 18 days in early 2011 until their autocratic president stood down. Now 85, Mr. Mubarak is on trial for corruption and complicity in killing protesters during the uprising.

Muhammad is in the tourism industry. (Like others in this article, his identity is obscured for his protection.) “I used to work four days a week,” Muhammad laments. “Now, I work four days a month.”

Thanks to President Mohammed Morsi’s economic mismanagement, Egyptians have seen unemployment rise from 8.9 percent, when Mr. Mubarak got booted, to 13.2 percent today. Annual gross domestic product growth, which was 5 percent in 2010, slowed to 3.3 percent in 2012, according to TradingEconomics.com. Foreign-exchange reserves have plunged from $36 billion in December 2010 to $16 billion last month. No surprise, the Egyptian pound, which was 5.5 to the U.S. dollar when Mr. Mubarak resigned, now is 7.0. While this exchange rate dazzles visiting Americans, Egyptians wilt beneath this 27 percent loss in buying power.

The Muslim Brothers’ economic agenda seems to involve printing money; borrowing from Libya, Saudi Arabia, Turkey and Qatar; and awaiting a new, $4.8 billion loan from the International Monetary Fund.

Egyptians also are coping with energy shortages. These include rolling blackouts to gasoline lines that Deya Abaza describes in Ahram Online as “a recurring feature of Egypt’s post-revolutionary landscape.”

“My best year was 2010,” Muhammad says. “I was saving money to buy a house. Now, I have lost one-third of my savings. My dreams have been crushed.”

The self-described “Rebel” movement declared this day of protest. It says it has secured 15 million signatures calling on Mr. Morsi to quit, just one year after he took power, and accept early elections. If accurate, these signatures outstrip the 13.2 million votes (51.7 percent) that Mr. Morsi received on June 17, 2012, when he defeated Ahmed Shafiq, Mr. Mubarak’s last prime minister, who won 12.3 million votes (48.2 percent).

“Message to Mr. Obama: A majority of the Egyptian people doesn’t like the Muslim Brothers,” a shop owner named Omar says from behind his desk. “I am a Muslim. The Muslim Brothers are using religion to advance their politics. What about our Christian brothers and friends?” Omar alludes to the post-Mubarak repression that Egypt’s Copts and other Christians are enduring. “They have the right to live in this country. Christians and Muslims are woven together here, like this piece of fabric,” he says, tugging at his plaid shirt. “They are Egyptian citizens.”

About 10 minutes away, another shopkeeper defends Mr. Morsi and the Muslim Brothers.

Morsi is the legal president,” Hisham states matter-of-factly. “He was elected. If people don’t like him, they should wait three more years, and then vote him out.”

Muhammad, the young tourism professional responds. “Imagine you want to take a northbound train from Cairo to Alexandria. You suddenly realize that you are on the wrong train, heading south to Luxor. Do you stay on that train, all the way to Luxor, or do you get off as soon as you can and start heading in the other direction?”

On Sunday, Egyptians will tell the world how much longer they wish to remain aboard the Muslim Brothers’ Express.

Deroy Murdock is a columnist with the Scripps Howard News Service and a media fellow with Stanford University’s Hoover Institution.

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