The Future of Egypt

'My friend is Egyptian, a devout Muslim, a patriot and yet she is preparing a plan B of escape, as so many others here have done, because she fears Egypt is turning into another Iran. ...'

That is MSNBC's Charlene Gubash on the changes she's seeing in Cairo. The analogy to Iran is not idle: she's describing a country that, in living memory, was free and secular. Soon it may be neither.

Gubash continues:
Many felt it was improper to take the oath of office in Tahrir Square rather than before the Constitutional Court. "It's basically very amateurish," said Hisham Kassem, veteran publisher. "He made lots of mistakes to the point you think he's going to be a trial-and-error president... making a promise to hand over Omar Abdul Rahman, the first man to attack the World Trade Center. He will never be released. He is just going to annoy the Americans now," Kassem said.

"[Taking the oath of office in Tahrir] eroded his legitimacy. If he is banking on the street, it's not very savvy, his presidency will collapse in a year if he banks on that," Kassem added.

Thomas Jocelyn at The Standard (via PowerLine) has more:
In a rousing speech in Tahrir Square on Friday, Egypt’s new president, Mohamed Morsi, told the crowd that he will work to free Sheikh Omar Abdel Rahman, aka the “Blind Sheikh.” Rahman is currently serving a life sentence in a U.S. prison for his role in the 1993 World Trade Center bombing and a follow-on plot against New York City landmarks.

Morsi’s call for Rahman’s return to Egypt was a curveball for all those Western watchers who are looking to brand the new president a moderate. At times, including during his speech on Friday, Morsi does use language that sounds quite conciliatory. But peppered throughout his rhetoric are troubling red flags.

Sheikh Rahman was a longtime ally of Osama bin Laden. The deceased al Qaeda master credited a fatwa authored by Rahman for providing the religious justifications for the September 11 attacks. Rahman has also served as the spiritual guide for Gamaa Islamiya and the Egyptian Islamic Jihad, both of which are terrorist organizations that have been close allies of al Qaeda for decades.

Morsi’s call for Rahman’s freedom is, therefore, the latest red flag. ...

For more on Morsi's speech, see Al-Jazeera.

The thing I want to emphasize here is that the path to secular liberal democracy is not a one-way street.