WOW! Even Egyptian President Gamal Abdel Nasser mocked the Muslim Brotherhood’s demand that the state uphold Islamic traditions.

The clip is charged with historical significance in light of the Brotherhood’s rise to power earlier this year in Egypt. A clearly bemused Nasser describes negotiations with the head of the Muslim Brotherhood, who demanded the imposition of headscarves for all women in Egypt.

Egypt's General Sisi's policies re: the Muslim Brotherhood are reminiscent  of former President Nasser's
Egypt’s General Sisi’s policies today re: the Muslim Brotherhood are reminiscent of former President Nasser’s

World Crunch (h/t Maurice)  The Brotherhood demanded that very woman walking in the street must wear her tarha (Egyptian Muslim headscarf). The audience starts laughing, and a man shouts, “let him wear it. Nasser goes on, “I answered that if I did that, it would like going back to the days of Al-Hakim bi-Amr Allah (11th century), when women weren’t allowed to go out during the day. For me every one must be free to do what they choose.”

Nasser, a colonel in the Egyptian army, led the 1952 military coup that overthrew Egypt’s monarchy. He ruled from 1956 until his death in 1970. When Nasser was named prime minister in 1952, the Muslim Brotherhood tried to negotiate with him to obtain ministerial portfolios. “In 1953 we wanted to work with the Muslim Brotherhood, to see if they could be reasonable.  I met their leader. We sat down and he presented his demands.” 

The Brotherhood leader couldn’t understand why he couldn’t impose the headscarf by law. “You’re the governor, you can decide,” Nasser remembers the Brotherhood leader telling him. “And I said, well your daughter, who is in medical school, does not wear the tarha. If you can’t make your own daughter wear the headscarf, how can you expect me to make 10 million women wear one?”

In 1954, a Brotherhood member tried to assassinate Nasser during a speech. In the aftermath of the attempt, the Brotherhood was dissolved, with many of its members subsequently arrested or fleeing overseas. For more than a half century, the Brotherhood was not a problem…until Obama’s friend Mohamed Morsi came to power.