Millions of Egyptians are calling for new elections and the immediate resignation of President Mohammed Morsi of the Muslim Brotherhood and the Brotherhood's political wing, the Freedom and Justice Party. On Monday, Egypt's military leaders gave Morsi 48 hours to address the protesters' demands; if not, they said they would follow their own "road map" to solve Egypt's mounting economic problems.
Sacramento resident Metwalli Amer helped elect Morsi when he and hundreds of other Egyptian Americans with dual citizenship voted in Egypt's historic June 2012 elections after 60 years of dictatorships. Last November, Amer, 79, was one of 500 Egyptian American leaders invited to New York to meet with Morsi after he addressed the United Nations.
Amer, a retired accounting professor at California State University, Sacramento, founded the Sacramento Area League of Associated Muslims' Islamic center in 1987. He has joined the call for political change on the anniversary of Morsi's election.
What's going on in Egypt?
At 4 p.m. Sunday Cairo time, at least 300,000 people protested in Cairo, and 22 million Egyptians have signed petitions asking for Morsi to go and conduct an early presidential election.
The anti-Morsi protesters include all opposition groups, youth, liberals, secular Egyptians, Christians and remnants of the old regime of President Hosni Mubarak. They all really mistrust the Muslim Brotherhood, its party and its president.
Many people voted for Morsi by default, on the assumption that anyone would be better than Mubarak and his cronies. He got 51 percent of the vote. We were really happy and supported him when he called himself president of all the Egyptian people. Unfortunately, instead of trying to have a national unity government, he follows instructions from the leader of the Muslim Brotherhood.
Morsi issued executive orders giving him more power over the judiciary, which infuriated the Egyptian people. Things started going downhill from there.
Unemployment, at 26 percent when Morsi was elected, has gotten worse and foreign investors began to leave. Tourism the engine of the Egyptian economy dropped off after conservatives in the Muslim Brotherhood's party called for an end to alcohol and dancing at nightclubs frequented by tourists. The World Bank was supposed to give Egypt $4.8 billion, but because of the unrest and the lack of tourism, the loan didn't materialize. Prices have gone up, the demand for food is high and people are saying Mubarak was better.
What is the Muslim Brotherhood?
It's an Egyptian Islamic organization started by Arabic teacher Hasan al-Banna 85 years ago to instill Islamic moral values in children and young adults by following the Quran and the traditions of the Prophet in their daily lives. In 1948, some of them fought the Israelis and came back victorious, giving them a push to enter Egyptian politics.
But Egyptian governments under King Farouk, Gamal Abdel Nasser, Anwar Sadat and Hosni Mubarak are secular. The Muslim Brotherhood were put in jail. When the brotherhood got out, they organized underground and told the government to apply Islamic law. Women should wear head covers and nightclubs should be closed. They developed a relationship with the grass roots, giving free medical care and food to the poor in villages. When free elections came, people said the Muslim Brotherhood was honest, they're Muslims and they helped us.
What is Morsi like personally?
He was a professor of engineering and does not have a sense of humor; he's kind of harsh. When I met him in New York he quoted from the Quran, which is usually not the case for a secular president.
He said he would create jobs for many of the unemployed with college degrees, provide rice, milk, bread, sugar and oil at reasonable prices. He promised there would be a new constitution written by a cross section of people, not just the Muslim Brotherhood. He's a good man in terms of being a practicing Muslim, but he's trying to solidify his power by appointing Muslim provincial governors and being more loyal to the Muslim Brotherhood than everyday people.
What happens next?
We need to make the change now simply because Egyptians are more miserable economically. Egyptians don't want another dictator; they've said enough is enough.
The Supreme Council for Armed Forces said if Morsi doesn't resign, they will take over. The head of the army could take over; Morsi and the other political leaders will probably be placed under house arrest. There will be fair elections in three to five months. I have confidence in the military because historically they've been consistent in putting the people's interests above their own.
Call The Bee's Stephen Magagnini, (916) 321-1072. Follow him on Twitter @stevemagagnini.