Amid Swirl of History, Egypt Steps Back From Brink of Chaos

Letter From Cairo

Celebration Time: Egyptians celebrate victory of the Muslim Brotherhood’s Mohamed Morsi in presidential elections.
getty images
Celebration Time: Egyptians celebrate victory of the Muslim Brotherhood’s Mohamed Morsi in presidential elections.

By Abdallah Schleifer

Published June 27, 2012, issue of July 06, 2012.
  • Print
  • Share Share
  • Single Page

Only hours before Egypt learned that the Muslim Brotherhood’s Mohamed Morsi had won the presidential election, feverish rumors swept across Cairo’s more fashionable districts.

After days of delay, word on the street was that Ahmed Shafik, Morsi’s main rival and a member of Hosni Mubarak’s old guard, was poised to be declared the winner of the country’s first democratic vote.

The rumors were greeted with satisfaction among Egypt’s secular middle class, some of whom feared the Muslim Brotherhood more than they feared the bloodshed and chaos that could have resulted from the perception of a stolen election.

The chatter brought a smile to the face of one of Mubarak’s former foreign ministers, whom I was interviewing at the time about a topic unrelated to the election.

After taking a call on his cell phone, he hung up and grinned even wider.

A very well-placed friend, he explained, had just called in to inform him that the electoral commission would soon proclaim Shafik the winner.

Within a few hours, the rumors and “highly placed sources” had melted away. They were swept aside by a stunning reality: The country’s electoral commission announced that Morsi won the election. Within a few hours, the Supreme Military Council congratulated him. Later, Shafik conceded.

The next day, a prosecutor announced that corruption lawsuits naming Shafik in connection with crooked land sales during his time as a Mubarak minister would go forward.

Denying the charges, Shafik nevertheless left the country for Abu Dhabi on June 26, accompanied by his family. Omar Suleiman, Mubarak’s former spy chief and the former ruling party kingmaker, had reportedly already fled to the Persian Gulf with his family.

Meanwhile, Morsi went on national television just hours after he was named president-elect. He gave a long and repetitious speech that appealed to the undeniably sentimental streak of the Egyptian people. It worked. Many Shafik supporters, who had been convinced that a Morsi victory might usher in an Islamist reign of terror, were reassured by Morsi’s words. He told them he would be president of all the people, that Egypt was one family, that everyone’s rights would be respected.


The Jewish Daily Forward welcomes reader comments in order to promote thoughtful discussion on issues of importance to the Jewish community. In the interest of maintaining a civil forum, The Jewish Daily Forwardrequires that all commenters be appropriately respectful toward our writers, other commenters and the subjects of the articles. Vigorous debate and reasoned critique are welcome; name-calling and personal invective are not. While we generally do not seek to edit or actively moderate comments, our spam filter prevents most links and certain key words from being posted and The Jewish Daily Forward reserves the right to remove comments for any reason.





Find us on Facebook!
  • The Jewish bachelorette has spoken.
  • "When it comes to Brenda Turtle, I ask you: What do you expect of a woman repressed all her life who suddenly finds herself free to explore? We can sit and pass judgment, especially when many of us just simply “got over” own sexual repression. But we are obliged to at least acknowledge that this problem is very, very real, and that complete gender segregation breeds sexual repression and unhealthy attitudes toward female sexuality."
  • "Everybody is proud of the resistance. No matter how many people, including myself, disapprove of or even hate Hamas and its ideology, every single person in Gaza is proud of the resistance." Part 2 of Walid Abuzaid's on-the-ground account of life in #Gaza:
  • After years in storage, Toronto’s iconic red-and-white "Sam the Record Man" sign, complete with spinning discs, will return to public view near its original downtown perch. The sign came to symbolize one of Canada’s most storied and successful Jewish family businesses.
  • Is $4,000 too much to ask for a non-member to be buried in a synagogue cemetery?
  • "Let’s not fall into the simplistic us/them dichotomy of 'we were just minding our business when they started firing rockets at us.' We were not just minding our business. We were building settlements, manning checkpoints, and filling jails." What do you think?
  • PHOTOS: 10,000 Israel supporters gathered for a solidarity rally near the United Nations in New York yesterday.
  • Step into the Iron Dome with Tuvia Tenenbom.
  • What do you think of Wonder Woman's new look?
  • "She said that Ruven Barkan, a Conservative rabbi, came into her classroom, closed the door and turned out the lights. He asked the class of fourth graders to lie on the floor and relax their bodies. Then, he asked them to pray for abused children." Read Paul Berger's compelling story about a #Savannah community in turmoil:
  • “Everything around me turns orange, then a second of silence, then a bomb goes off!" First installment of Walid Abuzaid’s account of the war in #Gaza:
  • Is boredom un-Jewish?
  • Let's face it: there's really only one Katz's Delicatessen.
  • "Dear Diaspora Jews, I’m sorry to break it to you, but you can’t have it both ways. You can’t insist that every Jew is intrinsically part of the Israeli state and that Jews are also intrinsically separate from, and therefore not responsible for, the actions of the Israeli state." Do you agree?
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?




















We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.