In his own words: President Morsi's first year of key, bizarre quotes

Hatem Maher, Saturday 29 Jun 2013

To mark one year since Morsi's inauguration, Ahram Online chooses his choicest quotes from 12 action-packed months

FIle photo: Mohammed Morsi holds a rally in Cairo, Egypt May 20, 2012 (Photo: AP)

Mohamed Morsi’s inaugural year as Egypt’s first post-revolution president featured some key and controversial speeches that went viral on social networking websites, further dividing the country. Some commentators mocked his statements and others staunchly supported them, lauding his decisions.

Ahram Online has compiled a list of Morsi’s most prominent quotes from his first year in office:

"I’ve been given authority, but I’m not the best of you. I will do my best to fulfil the pledges I made. Help me as long as I’m achieving justice, as long as I’m obeying God. Never obey me if I disobey God."

Quoting parts of a famous speech delivered by Islamic caliph Abu Bakr Al-Siddiq following the Prophet Mohammad’s death, Morsi attempted to woo admirers and win over sceptics after fending off competition from a Mubarak-era prime minister Ahmed Shafiq to become Egypt’s first freely-elected president in June 2012.

"To all the Egyptian people: I’m not wearing a bulletproof vest. I’m safe with you, I fear no one but Allah."

On his first visit to the iconic Tahrir Square after being elected as president, Morsi took off his jacket - a move described by his supporters as "courageous" and dismissed by his critics as "theatrical." It marked his only visit to-date to the cradle of Egypt’s revolution.

"The blood of those martyrs will never be shed in vain. I’ve given clear instructions to the army and police to hunt down the criminals and bring them to justice."

Facing his first serious test as president, Morsi vowed to capture the militants who killed 16 army soldiers in Rafah last Ramadan, an incident that sent shockwaves across Egypt. The authorities have so far failed to arrest or even identify the perpetrators.

"The decisions I took today are not targeting any specific persons. I don’t mean to embarrass any establishment; I’m just looking for the interests of the Egyptian people."

Morsi justified his bold move to dismiss defence minister Mohamed Hussein Tantawi, who was Egypt’s de facto ruler during the tumultuous transitional period, just days after the Rafah attack. Analysts said the decision paved the way for Morsi to assume full control of the country.

"The constitutional declaration is necessary for this exceptional period. It’s only a temporary measure."

Morsi’s "temporary measure" to expand his powers and shield his decisions from judicial review via a highly-controversial decree in November 2012 sparked mass protests. The divisive decree turned youth activists strongly against him.

"Some of those who took part in the Ittihadeya [presidential palace] clashes were paid to incite violence. Eighty people pleaded guilty after being arrested and public prosecution investigations will show who is behind them."

Morsi tried to calm anger after clashes between Muslim Brotherhood supporters and opponents, who had staged a sit-in at the presidential palace in December to protest the controversial decree. At least eight people were killed; despite Morsi’s assertions, no one was convicted.

"I took many hard decisions for the sake of fulfilling the Egyptian people’s aspirations of having a new constitution that will be the benchmark for this country. The constitution makes the president a servant of his people, not a dictator with absolute powers."

Morsi lauded the country’s first post-revolution constitution after it was approved in a national referendum in December 2012. Critics urged Egyptians to vote down the document, which was drafted by an assembly dominated by Islamists; they argued it fell short of achieving the goals of the revolution.

"I always said I'm against any exceptional measures, but I also said I might resort to such measures if I had to. I may even do more for the sake of Egypt - it's my duty."

Morsi justified his decision to declare a 30-day state of emergency in Port Said, Suez and Ismailia and impose a curfew in the restive Suez Canal cities in January. The decision followed riots which erupted in the wake of a court verdict sentencing 21 football fans to death for their role in the infamous Port Said stadium tragedy.

"If the ongoing investigations prove that some politicians had a hand in what happened, we will take the necessary measures against them - whoever they are."

This was Morsi’s first tirade against leading opposition figures, whom he declined to call by name, after clashes broke out between Brotherhood members and opponents in front of the Islamist group’s headquarters in the Cairo district of Moqattam in March.

"Egypt will not be subject to any blackmail attempts over the kidnapped soldiers."

Morsi insisted that Egypt will not negotiate with the militants who abducted seven security personnel in Sinai in May.

"We are a country with a constitution and a legal system. We held a free and fair election, and to talk of an early presidential election is absurd and illegitimate."

Morsi hit back at the Tamarod ('Rebel') Campaign, which has collected 22 million signatures – outnumbering the 13.2 that voted him into power - to demand snap presidential elections.

"The people of Egypt are patient with anything, unless their borders and lives are put under threat... in which case we will stand united to tear out the threat at the root."

Morsi warned Ethiopia earlier this month after it began constructing a giant dam on the Nile, which Egypt fears will affect its share of the water from the world’s longest river.

Morsi’s bizarre quotes

"For example, instead of running the automatic washing machines from 8 to 12 pm, the rush hours for electricity consumption, women should run the washers in the morning."

Morsi came up with a creative tactic to help Egyptians overcome the adverse effects of frequent power cuts.

"Social justice is achieved through our love for each other, solidarity and compassion."

The president replied in a simple manner when asked: "How would you achieve social justice?"

"We will raise our hands to the sky and pray to God, and we will deal with everyone on the basis of mutual love and respect. I’m sure Egypt’s share of the water will not be reduced, it will increase."

Another solution to the Ethiopian dam crisis: praying to God and loving each other.

"The Ethiopian prime minister assured me that Egypt would not lose a single drop of water because of the dam."

Morsi clearly was "assured," because he then held successive meetings with Egypt’s politicians to discuss ways to counter the dam's construction.

"Our dear martyrs, my sincere wishes for success."

When asked by Egyptian adventurer Ahmed Haggagovic to write a dedication for "martyrs" on an Egyptian flag, Morsi wished them success. Perhaps he meant a prosperous life in the hereafter?

"How many people celebrated the fact that we had produced the first Egyptian iPad tablet?"

A Morsi statement that will certainly make Apple Inc. CEO Tim Cook's jaw drop.

"Every country I go to I tell them 'You have the money, so give us some.' They then try to set conditions and pressure us … Egypt will never be pressured, we are incompressible."

Cracking a joke and then switching to a grim face, Morsi’s choice of the word "incompressible" sums up Egypt’s unyielding stance when seeking loans.

"I remember a movie. Which one? Planet of the Apes. The old version, not the new one. I still remember, this is the conclusion: When the big monkey, he was head of the supreme court, I think — in the movie! — and there was a big scientist working for him, cleaning things, has been chained there. And it was the planet of the apes after the destructive act of a big war, and atomic bombs and whatever in the movie. And the scientist was asking him to do something - this was 30 years ago: 'Don’t forget you are a monkey,' and 'Don’t ask me about this dirty work.' What did the big ape, (the monkey) say? He said, 'You’re human, you did it [to] yourself.' That’s the conclusion. Can we do something better for ourselves?"

The president’s "vivid" description of the 1968 science fiction film left many wondering what he actually meant by such a metaphor. Funnily enough, New York Times blogger Robert Mackey dug into the movie’s script and did not find a "big monkey" character.

"It’s not easy to be on the world stage. The world is now much more difficult than it was during your revolution. It’s even more difficult. The world. More complicated, complex, difficult. It’s a spaghetti-like structure. It’s mixed up."

Fair enough, Morsi’s choice of spaghetti to describe a mixed-up world was perfect.

"The wheat does not need a warehouse, the wheat does not need a warehouse to be stored … the wheat needs a warehouse to be stored … to store."

Did Dr Seuss help him write this? The conference audience scratched their heads, trying to figure out whether the wheat needs storage silos or not.

"We found some people standing on the roofs of buildings and firing machine gun rounds towards the Port Said prison. We sent two army helicopters to hover over them and we expected that they would be intimidated. But, instead, they fired back at the helicopters using Grinov machine guns."

Addressing Egyptian expats on a trip to Germany, Morsi commented on the riots in Port Said. One of the trip’s goals? To assure potential investors that Egypt was safe.

"For those who stay up until the early hours of the morning: when do you sleep, when do you work? How do you expect to be gifted by God in your job while you are not performing the dawn prayers?"

Morsi, justifying a government decision to close shops by 10pm, showed his fatherly side. (Many of the world’s billionaires and most successful people probably do not perform their dawn prayers.)

"Some people think they can escape my attention and go to an alley to do something wrong."

Morsi has never been clearer. Something wrong? In an alley? Guess what it could be.

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