The middle road
By Salama A Salama
The transitional period that kept the country under military rule for nearly 18 months is coming to a close. The transfer of power from the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces to a freely elected president involved the latter's swearing in three times, in Tahrir Square, at the Supreme Constitutional Court, and finally at Cairo University.
For the time being, Mohamed Mursi seems to be trying to please everyone. For example, he explored practical solutions to overcome the debacle created by the Supreme Constitutional Court's decision to invalidate the People's Assembly elections, a decision which was hotly contested by the Freedom and Justice Party and their allies in the Nour Party.
If the president wants to move on, he must find a middle road, which is not improbable. Already, Mursi proved that he is capable of compromise, when he agreed to television cameras broadcasting his swearing-in after first dismissing the idea as an intrusion.
Mursi will have to manage many differences if he is to persuade the Egyptian people, across the political spectrum, of his ability to lead Egypt to a better future. He must reach out to all communities, Muslims as well as Christians, and get the trust of the working and underprivileged classes.
It is easy to see how hard Mursi is trying to project an image of compassion and humility. A memorable moment was when he opened up his jacket to show the people that he was not wearing a bulletproof vest. He also called for a modern national security system for Egypt, and attempted to mend fences with Arab countries.
A gradual transition in the behaviour of the Islamist current is already in evidence. There are signs that the doctrinal views of the past, views that defined the position of the Muslim Brotherhood for over half a century, are being rethought.
One of the things Mursi will have to do is find a middle ground between the ideologies of the past and the practical policies of the future. What he comes up with will influence not only the future of this country, but also that of political Islam.
Judging by the way the Salafis keep pressing for a constitution that calls for the implementation of Sharia law, not the intention of Sharia as Al-Azhar has recommended, this is not going to be easy.
The Salafis are also trying to impose their choices on who should serve in the new government and who mustn't serve. They already vetoed Mohamed El-Baradei, saying that he wasn't a suitable choice at present.
At one point, Mursi will have to address the growing schism in the ranks of the Islamists. That he came to power not only on an Islamist agenda, but also because of liberal and nationalist support, is something that he cannot afford to forget.
The choices ahead of Mursi are not easy. And the attempts by his Freedom and Justice Party friends to replace the editors-in-chief of state-run media can only make things harder. The top editorial post in a newspaper is not a top priority for the country and should not be a top priority for the Shura Council.
Our media organisations have admittedly a lot of problems, from overstaffing to financial and administrative incompetence, all of which needs to be addressed. But these are not the kinds of problems that a reshuffle in top editorial posts can resolve.
The president must not take hasty decisions. Acting erratically, invoking old ideas and bowing to Salafist pressure is not the way forward.