Triangle's Egyptians share reactions to change of government

cowens@newsobserver.comJuly 5, 2013 

Charles Farag sees July 3 – the day Egyptians ousted President Mohammed Morsi from office – as Egypt’s new Independence Day, comparable to the Fourth of July in the United States.

Farag, pastor of the Raleigh Arabic Baptist Church, lived in Egypt until he moved to the United States in 1984. He thinks better times lie ahead for the country.

“I feel it is just a transitional time, and peace will come back to Egypt, prosperity will come back,” he said.

Farag and other Egyptians throughout the Triangle have closely followed the ouster of Morsi in the news. Many have spoken with family and friends in Egypt.

Not all share Farag’s optimism for the country’s future. Andrew Reynolds, a professor at UNC-Chapel Hill who assisted with Egypt’s election design in 2011, sees dangerous similarities to the ouster of former President Hosni Mubarak.

Reynolds said forcing Morsi’s departure is a setback for democracy in Egypt and increased the possibility of violence.

“There were deep problems with democracy to begin with,” he said. “This certainly doesn’t help it.”

Various Egyptians spoke of family members describing harsh conditions in Egypt under Morsi’s rule.

“It was pathetic,” said Iris Andros, who moved to Raleigh in 1994 but on Sunday called more than 20 friends and family members in Egypt.

They told her they want Egyptians to be represented by the government.

Andros said many people did not have electricity or drinkable water. They would wait hours for bread only to go home empty-handed.

Kamal Rizk, a Christian Egyptian who moved to Raleigh 34 years ago, said anything will be an improvement from the regime of the Muslim Brotherhood, Morsi’s political party.

“When you hit rock bottom, anything else is a plus,” he said. “I have great hope the future will be better.”

Coup or revolution?

Rizk said he rejects the characterization of Morsi’s removal as a military coup.

“What is going on is a very legitimate demand by the Egyptian people to regain their freedom,” he said. “It’s anything but a military coup. This is a revolution by all means.”

It was “a classic military coup,” Reynolds, the UNC professor, countered.

While some liberals and secular Egyptians are excited about Morsi’s overthrow, Reynolds noted that Morsi was elected under the systems chosen by the Egyptian people.

Farag, the pastor, likens the removal of Morsi to an impeachment.

Role of religion

Shagia Mahrouf and Suzanne Younan lived as neighbors in Egypt for 30 years. Younan now lives in Raleigh, where Mahrouf is visiting her.

Mahrouf is Muslim, and Younan is Christian. Religion never came between them as neighbors; now, Younan believes religion has become divisive under Morsi.

Both share views on the current situation. They welcome change, although Younan worries about her friends and family who still live in Egypt. Some, she said, have been hurt.

“When I saw the news from Egypt and they got killed, I cried for them,” she said.

Mahrouf said Morsi did not like Christians. Also a Muslim, her views differ.

“We are all together, Muslim and Christian,” she said.

Owens: 919-829-4567

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