As millions of Egyptians watched on television the country’s first Islamist president, Dr. Mohamed Mursi, was sworn in on Saturday, taking the oath of office before 18 judges of the Supreme Constitutional Court.

His election as the fifth head of state since officers overthrew King Farouk in 1952 brings to an end 60 years of military rule.

Egypt’s national anthem sounded at the beginning of the ceremony, which was broadcast live on state TV.

After taking the oath, in which Mursi promised before God to “uphold the republic, to respect the constitution and the law, and fully safeguard the people’s interests, [the nation’s] independence and territorial integrity,” the new president said that “today, the people of Egypt laid the foundations for a new democracy.

“Egypt is now a civil, national and modern state,” he said.

Although according to custom Egyptian presidents are sworn in before parliament, Mursi took the oath of office before the SCC, Egypt’s highest judicial authority, following a June 17 decision by Egypt’s ruling military junta, the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF), to dissolve the Muslim Brotherhood-dominated lower house.

Judge Farouk Sultan, the SCC chairman, congratulated Mursi on his presidency before calling on him to take the oath, citing the June 17 constitutional declaration.

After being sworn in, Mursi said he saluted the court, dubbing it an “institution that I will ensure remains independent and strong.” His decision to be sworn-in before the SCC – announced only late on Thursday – caused controversy.

The Muslim Brotherhood previously said it rejected the SCAF’s decree to dissolve parliament as well as its June 17 issuing of a supplementary constitutional declaration.

Following Mursi’s victory in a runoff election, the Egyptian press speculated that he would likely refuse to take the oath of office in front of the SCC – as decreed in the supplementary constitutional declaration – because to do so would indicate that he accepted both the declaration and the ruling to dissolve parliament.

On Friday, some revolutionary youth movements condemned his decision to agree to be sworn in before the court, which they said implied recognition of the SCAF’s controversial decrees.

A group calling itself the Second Revolution of Rage, which advocates a “democratic, civil state that extends to all political and civil forces with full respect for their religious beliefs,” announced on its Facebook page Friday that it did not recognize Mursi as president because of his decision to be sworn in before the court.

After attending Friday prayers at Cairo’s al-Azhar Mosque, Mursi went to the city’s Tahrir Square and read out the oath of office in a symbolic gesture to the crowds. He vowed he would represent all Egyptians – Christians and Muslims alike – and said the revolution would continue until it achieved all its goals.

After the short swearing-in ceremony on Saturday, Mursi went to Cairo University, where he delivered his first speech as president. The speech was attended by Field Marshal Mohamed Hussein Tantawi, head of the SCAF.

In an address that began “Allah is greatest,” Mursi said Egypt would continue on its democratic path.

Outside the university, protesters called for Tantawi’s execution, the Egyptian daily Al-Masry al-Youm reported.

Mursi also reiterated his support for the Palestinians, saying that Egypt would “stand by” them until they “regained all their rights.”

However, he added that the country would also stand by its international treaties.

Egypt and Israel signed a peace treaty in 1979, bringing to an end three decades of conflict. Following Mursi’s runoff victory, speculation mounted as to whether he would honor the treaty.

The new president also called for an end to the bloodshed in Syria.

After his speech, Mursi attended a military parade at the Hike Step military base near Cairo. In attendance were Tantawi and other SCAF members.

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