Tawakul Karman is a brave press-freedom advocate and a worthy Nobel Peace Prize winner. She was a powerful voice in the Yemeni people’s struggle against President Ali Abdullah Saleh’s 34-year autocracy and remains an important figure in Yemen’s march toward democracy. However, Karman’s recent comparison of deposed Egyptian leader Mohammed Morsi to Nelson Mandela, one of the most influential and inspirational figures of the latter half of the 20th century and whose name is synonymous with courage, struggle and wisdom, is astoundingly wrongheaded. Mandela remains a global moral authority. Morsi is not worthy of such praise — not even close. If the defining feature of Mandela’s presidency was the unification of his people, the defining feature of Morsi’s one-year presidency was the intensifying and perilous polarization of the Egyptian people.
This is not a personal attack on Karman (though there is, regrettably, a deluge of unproductive and troubling ad hominem bullying on social media), but a disagreement about a bold and false assertion. Karman is certainly free to defend the former president and criticize the wisdom of the military’s decision to oust him and express serious concerns about the current trajectory of democracy in Egypt. And there is indeed, most certainly, ample cause for concern.