NPR Story
2:27 pm
Mon July 8, 2013

Egyptian Americans React To Political Upheaval

More than 50 supporters of ousted president Mohammed Morsi were killed in an outburst of violence around the time of morning prayers on Monday, according to Egypt’s state news agency.

The violence erupted outside of the Republican Guard headquarters in Cairo, where Morsi supports were holding a sit-in to demand his release. He’s under house arrest.

With so much in flux, what is it like for Egyptian Americans to watch this unfold? We hear from Abrar Rageh, a junior scientist at the University of Minnesota in the department of Opthamology.

She feels that the political uprising was undemocratic and that if the people were unhappy with the president they should have removed him at the next election.

Guest:

  • Abrar Rageh, Egyptian American living in Minnesota.
Copyright 2013 WBUR-FM. To see more, visit http://www.wbur.org.

Transcript

ROBIN YOUNG, HOST:

More than 50 supporters of ousted Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi were killed in a violent encounter in Egypt earlier today, the military and protesters each accusing the other of firing first. The protesters were demanding Morsi's release from house arrest.

Our next guest is demanding his return to office. We've heard from Morsi detractors who celebrated the democratically elected president's ouster by the military. Today, a different voice. Abrar Rageh is an Egyptian-American junior scientist at the University of Minnesota. Abrar, so do you support Morsi?

ABRAR RAGEH: I support legitimacy and democracy. So it's not about Morsi, per se.

YOUNG: Do you think that Morsi should have been removed?

RAGEH: Absolutely not, because that goes against legitimacy. When he's held accountable at the end of his term, he can either be voted out or voted in again.

YOUNG: Well, you know why protesters were amassing against him. They say he took power away from the judiciary, they threatened a strike, that he was imposing Islamist thinking on the country, that he was a puppet of the Muslim Brotherhood, and that the country was in trouble. In addition to those questions, Egypt has financial problems. He wasn't able to resolve them. And he didn't respond to the people in the streets. Your thoughts.

RAGEH: Morsi was elected democratically, and that's something that we all agree on, whether we're opposition or supporters. Unfortunately, there's masses protesting against him. Well, I don't know why people failed to realize that there's also masses in support. Also, many times, Morsi has spoken to the masses and specifically to the opposition, and called for them to help. We are coming out of a revolution. We're trying to rebuild the country. We need to move forward. He's done it openly multiple times, and multiple times they have refused.

YOUNG: Do you mind if I ask you personally where you stand? Are you secularist? Are you an Islamist? And do you think that was much a part of this as it was made out to be? Today's New York Times is reporting that maybe it wasn't, because there's a strict Islamist group that actually backed the overthrow.

RAGEH: Exactly. I mean, first of all, let me answer your question. No, I'm not a secularist, and no, I'm not an Islamist. Again, I believe in legitimacy and democracy. And if someone else is voted in, then I would stand behind that person, even if I have critical, opposing views with that person. It's not a pro-Islamist, anti-Islamist thing. It's not a pro-Morsi, anti-Morsi thing. Morsi has been called a puppet. But unfortunately, what are now being called the puppets of the military are the so-called Salvation Front.

YOUNG: The opposition, much of which is secularist, but some isn't.

RAGEH: Some isn't. Yeah. So, the thing is, is a lot of this opposition, there was agenda back there. And they did use the hard situations in Egypt, or just people simply don't like Morsi's rule. Fifty percent did vote against him. So they used that popular support and, you know, took advantage of the moment and rallied for support for months. They've been rallying for support to come out and overthrow him.

And when they did come out and joined in Tahrir Square, the media completely ignored the supporters that came out, saying, you know what? We voted for him, and we want to help move this country forward. There's many secularists, many Christians, many non-Islamists, as well as Islamists, Muslim Brotherhood, non-Muslim Brotherhood that are all standing in support of legitimacy, because if democracy dies now, it's going to take forever to build it up again.

YOUNG: Well, but just to counter what we were just saying, it is also true that the constitutional assembly was faltering because it - many said it had been taken over by the Muslim Brotherhood, that 25 percent of the members of the assembly that was trying to come up with this new constitution resigned because they said the Islamists were dominating the process. So there was a fear that the Muslim Brotherhood, which has said that they wouldn't dominate, was...

RAGEH: The people that resigned, resigned on the last three days, you know. So they were in the writing process of it. And it's clear. I mean, it's been said they have resigned because of the call from the streets and not to be involved in this. And actually, that was one of his accomplishments, was to be able to do this constitution.

YOUNG: Well, Abrar, it sounds as if you align with those who think Morsi should be reinstated. But it feels like - if I could use colloquialism - it feels like that horse has left the barn. I mean, do you think there's any chance of that happening?

RAGEH: Oh, yeah. Honestly, people are chanting give me liberty or give me death, especially after yesterday's massacre, more people - and I know people personally - that were with Tamarud, which was part of the opposition group are more anti-Morsi completely, and they were celebrating in the streets in Tahrir Square. They have joined the people voting to support legitimacy, because they do not want this military rule. They do not accept the coup, which people refuse to call it, but it is a coup, and I will say that until my last breath. This is definitely a coup. People will stand for their rights. The anti-Morsi, a lot of them just being happy that he's gone now, not realizing what we're getting into. And I think after yesterday's massacre, they're starting to realize, uh-oh.

YOUNG: Abrar, you're hearing from family and friends in Egypt. You say they're going from siding with the opposition to siding with the reinstatement forces, the pro-Morsi forces because of the violence that they're seeing. What else are they telling you? What's it like for them now?

RAGEH: Honestly, it's been extremely hard and devastating because I have a personal connection with these people that are there. There is a mix of feelings. Sometimes they're high spirited. They feel like we're moving forward here. And then after the massacre, I mean, they have been strong. I was the weak one. They're still standing, like, oh, it's OK, you know, we got to do this for our country. And they say this to me. They say, well, we will not accept condolences on our brothers until freedom is achieved because they died for this freedom of this military rule, and back to democracy.

YOUNG: What do you think about the United States government? Initially, the Obama administration said they hope that this would be resolved peacefully, and they've been somewhat silent since then. You know, there's a debate in this country. If you call it a coup, you have to cut off aid. But there is a sense in this country that he was a puppet of the Muslim Brotherhood and had to go.

RAGEH: I believe America should support legitimacy and not accept this as a coup, not accept the coup and do what it's supposed to be doing.

YOUNG: Well, here you are a scientist at the University of Minnesota, looking around the school there. Are people around you paying attention to this?

RAGEH: Yeah. People are paying attention to it, but there's definitely - they see there's masses of people in the streets. They're kind of confused. They're like, OK. So it's a good thing that he's gone now. And then there's others that see the other side. There is another side to the story. It's actually really devastating. I watched the video of people being killed. I did not sleep last night. So it's just - the situation is getting nastier, and it's covered with the masks of so-called popular uprising. It's not really popular uprising.

Popular uprising would what happened in January 25th. That's where everyone united. But the country - there's supporters, and I would say that there's way more support of just legitimacy than there are of what's happening. And people need to see the real story, the whole story.

YOUNG: That's Abrar Rageh, a junior scientist at the University of Minnesota in the department of ophthalmology, reflecting on what's happening in Egypt. She is an Egyptian-American. Abrar, thanks so much for speaking with us.

RAGEH: Thank you.

YOUNG: And that is just one Egyptian-American's view. We'll be hearing from others. Does that include you? Let us know at hereandnow.org. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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