Left Coast Voices

"I would hurl words into the darkness and wait for an echo. If an echo sounded, no matter how faintly, I would send other words to tell, to march, to fight." Richard Wright, American Hunger

Morsi and Obama: A Tale of Two Presidents

I recently drove past a demonstration outside the Federal building in Los Angeles. A red stoplight had my car idling next to maybe fifty Egyptians and their allies. They were supportive of the army’s ouster of President Morsi and the Muslim Brotherhood. Their signs showed their anger with President Obama who has called on the army to honor the democratic process. 

I have to admit that I am very torn here. The Egyptians did hold a democratic election. Sure, it might have been flawed with voter fraud, intimidation and other dirty tricks, and this should be condemned, but it was probably no worse than most other countries. Egypt has only just begun to walk the path of democracy. There will be bumps along the way. 

imagesOn the other hand, Morsi has done little to address the major problems facing Egypt such as poverty and the terrible violence on the streets, in particular directed at women, who are then shamed publicly after being raped and beaten. NPR have reported that more than 100 women who were at the demonstrations were attacked and many raped in public. 

President Morsi leads the Muslim Brotherhood, a popular Muslim organization that threatens all who fear religious extremisms and desire to live in a secular country.


The fundamental question is whether the people (in this case led by the military) can justifiably remove a democratically elected leader if he is not doing his job. President Obama has weighed in and emphatically said no.

I understand his belief that only the democratic process can remove a leader. I think those who suggest that he is supporting a Muslim movement because of his past are being absurd and demeaning.

Many of us are frustrated that countries in Africa, Europe, and most recently in Syria, can destroy and massacre its people, without outside intervention. We draw red lines that are already baffling to the victims and then move those lines when it suits us.

I am not happy with religious extremism in any religion. I am deeply uncomfortable when a religious movement takes control of a country (in any way) and encroaches on the rights of those who do not follow that religion or are not as religious. 

But I am also uncomfortable with our government intervening with the internal affairs of other countries up to a point. I believe the United Nations (I know – I am referring to a fictitious effective organization) should set red lines and intervene when any government crosses that line.

Democracy is important and I believe I would take up arms to protect it. But a democratic government must protect its citizens and allow them to live in freedom, without intimidation or fear.

images-2President Morsi was democratically elected but he failed his people. And this is why he must be replaced. President Obama, who I unequivocally support, should make this distinction. Perhaps there is simply too much gray for us even to get involved.


Alon Shalev writes social justice-themed novels and YA epic fantasy. He swears there is a connection. His latest books include: Unwanted Heroes and the 2013 Eric Hoffer Book Award for YA – At The Walls Of Galbrieth. Alon tweets at @alonshalevsf and @elfwriter.   For more about the author, check out his website.


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2 thoughts on “Morsi and Obama: A Tale of Two Presidents

  1. Alon, I agree this is a tough call. Egypt has a failed president elected by a flawed democratic process, removed by the military.

    I,too, worry about the party in power commited to the harsh judgments of religious fundamentalism as exemplified by Morsi’s Islamic Brotherhood. Equally I have the same worry about the strong influence of religious fundamentalism within the Republican party in the Us

    There have been other failed leaders elected by flawed democratic processes. Need we look any further than the US presidential election of 2000?

    But the Egyptian election has another factor. Morsi’s Islamist party won more votes than any other party and thus gained power. However, the remainder of the votes–split among more liberal parties–exceeded the Islamist vote. So if a definition of democracy is that it represents a majority of the will of the people, was Morsi’s election democratic.

    And since the Egyptian military’s coup etat was one of the most peaceful and speedy regime changes in recent decade, can the power shift be judged harshly simply because it did not result from a vote.

    What will be most interesting to see is if the regime change is validated by a vote and earn the blessing of those who judge whether the change was in fact democratic.

  2. We have many Muslim leaders, from the past and contemporary, but Mohamed Morsi is an exemplary Muslim president, who I believe every Muslim should look up at, with respect. Mohamed Morsi is not only the first democratically elected Arab Muslim leader, he’s also the first Arab Muslim leader, who has memorized the whole Qur’an, by heart.

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