It is totally fine for people to take back their words or actions, but they have to be brave enough to admit they were wrong and to call upon others—especially followers—not to make the same mistake again. This applies to the Egyptian president who retracted statements he made three years ago following the objection of his allies the Americans.
The story goes back to a few days ago when the United States strongly condemned anti-Israeli statements Mohamed Mursi made in 2010 before he became president of Egypt and in which he described Israelis as “the offspring of apes and pigs” and called for supporting “all forms of Palestinian resistance against Zionist criminals.” U.S. State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland described Mursi’s remarks as “deeply offensive” and noted that they “should be repudiated and they should be repudiated firmly.” Nuland urged Mursi to prove to his people and the International Community that he respects all religions and added that such rhetoric does not become a democratic country. I could hear her tone as she raised her eyebrows and waved her index finger menacingly. The Muslim Brotherhood could not afford to upset their ally, thus Mursi declared “courageously” that his words, said following the Israeli aggression on the Gaza strip, were taken out of context and stressed his full respect for all religions and for freedom of faith as was made clear in the presidential statement issued following the president’s meeting with a Congress delegation headed by Senator John McCain.
Mursi not misunderstood
The Washington-based Middle East Media Research Institute (MEMRI), which dug up the interview Mursi made with al-Quds channel and which contained the controversial remarks, seemed to have been offended when Mursi said his words were taken out of context, a response that questions the institute’s credibility, so it decided to post another video in which the president echoes the same views.
Fellow journalist Osama Saber unearthed an article Mursi wrote on the Muslim Brotherhood’s official website on January 10, 2009, that is around 10 years before the controversial video, and in which he made similar remarks.
The article demonstrated that his use of the expression “offspring of apes and pigs” was not a matter of coincidence.
“People have to condemn Zionist brutality… and we tell Palestinians that we support them and that God has chosen them to protect al-Aqsa Mosque and to defend Islam and the Arab world against the Zionist herds, the offspring of apes and pigs.”
‘judge him by what he says’
It will be absurd if Mursi reiterates his previous excuse about his statements being taken out of context because it is very clear now, as demonstrated by both MEMRI and Saber, that Mursi was beating around the bush.
We are all aware that those statements were not taken out of context and that this discourse is very common among a large number of clerics and members of Islamist groups. Apart from the remarks themselves, I am calling upon the person who made them to courageously admit either the real stance he and the Muslim Brotherhood and their followers adopt or how mistaken they had been for all those years. It should not stop at that. He also has to ask Brotherhood members and all his supporters to stop using this language if he really believes it was wrong as he said in the shy statement he issued to please the Americans, who in turn see that Mursi has so far passed all tests they gave him. He and his group are expected to pass all the coming tests because it is only power they are after and for that they will always fare well.
I would like to conclude with another statement made by Nuland: “But we'll also judge him by what he says.”
(Abdel Latif al-Menawy is an author, columnist and multimedia journalist who has covered conflicts around the world. He is the author of "Tahrir: the last 18 days of Mubarak," a book he wrote as an eyewitness to events during the 18 days before the stepping down of former Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak. Menawy’s most recent public position was head of Egypt’s News Center. He is a member of the National Union of Journalists in the United Kingdom, and the Egyptian Journalists Syndicate. He can be found on Twitter @ALMenawy)