Cairo (AsiaNews) - Justice, culture, economy and religion are key
areas now under the direct or indirect control of the Muslim Brotherhood.
Yesterday, President Mohamed Morsi presented the members of his new cabinet, giving
nine ministries to figures affiliated with the Freedom and Justice Party (FJP),
including Finance, Investment, Justice and Culture. Hisham Kandil, a
technocrat, remains prime minister. The new ministers were sworn in at the
The cabinet shuffle has proven controversial
though. Pro-democracy parties and secularist groups view the new cabinet as further proof of the Muslim Brotherhood consolidating
its hold on power. Unexpectedly, several pro-government Salafist MPs also criticised
the president's action, calling it a partisan cabinet with a technocratic
In an interview with AsiaNews,
Egyptian journalist André Azzam said that the president chose the new cabinet members
for their loyalty, not their abilities. "He wants to change the country," he
said, "but until now has only been able to boost hatred against himself among
The Finance portfolio went to Fayyad Abdel-Moneim, a specialist in Islamic finance
and a member of the Freedom and Justice Party. Yehia Hamed, the new Investment
minister, is a prominent Brotherhood member. Ahmed Suleiman, who is close to
the Islamist movement, gets the Justice Ministry, replacing Ahmed Mekky, who
criticised the president's plan to reform the justice system, and retire 13,000
judges, including the presidents of the Supreme Court and the Constitutional
According to Azzam, the Muslim Brotherhood plans to take over culture
as well, gradually. In fact, Morsi appointed Ahmed Eissa Ahmed, an expert on
Islamic and Coptic culture, as minister of Antiquities. This goes against the
long-established practice of appointing internationally recognised
intellectuals and archaeological experts to the department.
"The story that is being written is an old one," Azzam said. "Like in
other places, the Muslim Brotherhood wants to places its members everywhere,
especially in government, in order to rule even if they should lose political
In recent months, Morsi's changes are having their first disruptive
effects. The most striking example is the resignation of Mazhar Shaheen, the
imam of Omar Makram Mosque on Tahrir Square.
He was a leading figure in the Arab Spring of 2011 and was well
liked by the Protestant community with whom he had close ties of friendship. However,
he was forced out of office last month by an order of the Religious Affairs Ministry.
Shaheen was removed against the wishes of Ahmed al-Tayeb, grand imam
of Al-Azhar, who has always been critical of President Morsi and the Islamist establishment.
In recent months, the grand imam and other members of al-Azhar University
have also come under attack in the media over alleged food poisoning of 500
students at the Islamic institution. (S.C.)