This month’s U.N. General Assembly meeting provides a critical test for the president’s commitment to combat such revisionism. The star of the sessions is likely to be Mohamed Morsi, Egypt’s new president. Obama reportedly plans to meet with Morsi, the popularly elected leader of the Arab world’s most powerful and populous state. But Morsi, a longtime leader of the Muslim Brotherhood, has not only evinced sympathy for the embassy attackers, he has also embraced some of the most vile conspiracy theories about 9/11.
Morsi has not been shy about airing his odious views. In a May 2010 interview with Brookings Institution scholar Shadi Hamid, Morsi dismissed al-Qaeda’s responsibility for the attacks. “When you come and tell me that the plane hit the tower like a knife in butter, then you are insulting us,” Hamid reported Morsi as saying. “How did the plane cut through the steel like this? Something must have happened from the inside. It’s impossible.” Similarly, in 2007, Morsi reportedly declared that the United States “has never presented any evidences [sic] on the identity of those who committed that incident.” In 2008, he called for a “huge scientific conference” to analyze “what caused the attack against a massive structure like the two towers.”
While Morsi has been silent about 9/11 since becoming president, the Brotherhood’s emergence over the past year as Egypt’s leading political force hasn’t moderated its “truther” rhetoric.
In a series of interviews in July, top Brotherhood leaders repeatedly denied al-Qaeda’s responsibility for the attacks. Mustafa Ghoneimy, leader of the Brotherhood’s Guidance Office, said “the Jews” had executed the attacks. “So many Jews worked in these two towers,” he said. “And on that day, they were off.” Meanwhile, Brotherhood secretary general Mahmoud Hussein pinned the attacks on “one of the intelligence services in America, or the Jews.” Spokesman Mahmoud Ghozlan speculated that “intelligence services” were behind the attacks, since “it is impossible for immature pilots to execute their ideas. It needs some professionalism to do it.”
To be sure, Morsi is not the first Egyptian ruler to trade in bigoted conspiracy theories. Then-President Gamel Abdel Nasser, the leader of secular pan-Arabism, once told a German interviewer that “no person, not even the most simple one, takes seriously the lie of the 6 million Jews that were murdered.” And the state television station of close U.S. ally Hosni Mubarak once aired during Ramadan a 41-part series based on “The Protocols of the Elders of Zion,” the infamous conspiracy screed of a Jewish cabal to control the world.