What do you call a leader of a theocratic and cultish movement with a deep and clear disdain for democracy who suddenly assumes dictatorial powers? A “moderate,” of course.
Ever since the Muslim Brotherhood broke its promise to stay out of Egypt‘s presidential election in the aftermath of the revolution, many Western observers have been in denial about what has been going on. In less than half a year, Mohamed Morsi has deftly built the apparatus of despotism.
Much as the Nazis brilliantly cast themselves as reformers sweeping away the corruption of the Weimar Republic, Morsi and the Muslim Brotherhood have been using the effort to clean up the detritus of Hosni Mubarak‘s dictatorship as an excuse to consolidate power.
In August, when Islamists attacked Egyptian soldiers in the Sinai (in an apparent effort to force Egypt into a confrontation with Israel), Morsi used the incident as an excuse to replace Mohamed Hussein Tantawi — a Mubarak-era holdover who headed the military and guarded its independence — with officers more pliable to the Brotherhood.
“Are we looking at a president determined to dismantle the machine of tyranny,” Alaa Al Aswany, a popular novelist and democratic activist, asked at the time, “or one who is retooling the machine of tyranny to serve his interests?” That question quickly became, at best, rhetorical.