Ayman Nour

ON A SULTRY MORNING in late September, I drove for two hours on the traffic-choked roads north of Cairo to Al Adwa, a Nile Delta town of dusty alleyways, mosques, and crumbling red brick houses. This is where Mohamed Morsi, the president of Egypt, was raised. Morsi left nearly four decades ago, but he returns regularly to visit his younger brothers, who still work the family farm, and to celebrate Islamic holidays.

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CAIRO-- "I have traces of torture everywhere on my body," says Ayman Nour. Late on a smoldering hot afternoon, Nour is sitting in his well-cooled living room on the top floor of a Zamalek apartment building, surrounded by a display of fine antique furniture and elegant classical art. An oversized painting on one wall features a gaggle of Egyptian politicians, including Nour, outside the national parliament, where Nour served until his arrest and imprisonment by Hosni Mubarak in 2005.

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As President Obama prepares for his historic speech in Cairo next week, he faces a dual challenge--not only to redefine the troubled relations between the United States and the Muslim world, but also to clarify the place of democracy and human rights in his administration's foreign policy. The former would have been the centerpiece of his first speech in an Islamic nation no matter where he had chosen to deliver it.

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