Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi swore in Adel Mohamed al-Khayat, the former leader of terrorist group Gamaa Islamiya, as governor of tourist-heavy Luxor on Monday. The move has inspired public outrage.
In 1997, a member of Gamma Isamiya killed 58 foreigners at a temple in Luxor, the area Khayat has now sworn to protect. While still a member of its political movement, Khayat and the group denounced violence more than a decade ago.
The U.S. Department of State still considers Gamma Isamiya a terrorist group, which was once linked to al Queda.
Considering Egypt’s tourism rate has dropped drastically since its January 2011 revolution and cost the state $2.5 billion, it is surprising that that Morsi would appoint a former terrorist to oversee a city that draws international tourist interest. While Khayat has said he welcomes “all forms of tourism,” his statement might not be enough to encourage skeptics.
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The governor’s party has called for a ban on alcohol, nightclubs and skimpy clothing. The requests led to a mass demonstration in Luxor, where residents said the bans would inhibit tourism.
"Doesn't the president know that the people of Luxor depend on tourism for their livelihoods?" said Abubaker Fadel, one of the demonstrators.
Morsi has been criticized for his favorable treatment of Gamma Isamiya members in the past, calling for the freeing of the group’s spiritual leaderOmar Abdel Rahman. Rahman has been jailed in the United States since 1993 after he plotted to blow up the World Trade Center.
Morsi also called for the group’s support combating Islamist complaints that he has not enacted sharia law, and once pardoned a member who plotted to assassinate former Egyptian ruler Muhammad Mubarak.