Muslim New Yorkers Watch Egypt Protests With Hope and Fear

Sunday, January 30, 2011

When he's not on the phone with friends on the streets of Cairo, Parvez Sharma has been on a tweeting rampage these last few days, constantly updating the world on the latest in Egypt. And yet, the New York-based filmmaker bristles at the label "Twitter Revolution" to describe what's happening there.

"You know, a lot of the real folks who have really pretty much not gone home for the last three or four nights do not have Twitter or Internet -- even on their smartphones -- working," he said.

Sharma directed "A Jihad for Love," a documentary about homosexuality in the Muslim world. He is one of many Muslim New Yorkers who said they feel moved by the events in Egypt as protests continued in the capital Cairo calling for the resignation of Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak and hundreds in New York gathered over the weekend at the United Nations in a show of solidarity.

For Sharma, this is first and foremost a popular uprising, not one directed by Egyptian elites grounded in social media. He's also frustrated by what he sees as a guessing-game among Western pundits on who will eventually lead Egypt.

"To conjecture is pointless," he said, while sounding equally dismissive of Mohammed El-Baredei and the Muslim Brotherhood.

For Haroon Moghul, a PhD candidate at Columbia who heads the Maydan Institute, the uprising has brought on a swirl of emotions: the initial exhilaration felt by many Muslims, mixed in with concerns about the future of Egypt.

"People are optimistic and surprised," he said, adding: "I think there's a very strong potential for a domino effect."

As someone who works to advance a positive image of Islam in the U.S., Moghul seems confident that the uprising will help his cause. He said many Americans are convinced Muslims, whether they live in Egypt or the United States, don't embrace democratic values.

"And hopefully this will go a long way toward changing that," he said, "and I think it's because of the undeniable power of the images and the reality of what's happening over there."

But he's also pushing back against what he sees as bad media coverage, such as the suggestion that this is an "extremist uprising, which it's not." And he points to the airing of a map on Fox News, in which Egypt is somehow located in Iraq.

For Hesham El-Melighy, an Egyptian New Yorker, a "Saturday Night Live" skit starring "Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak" summed it up all too well.

"Egyptians are the most patient people on the face of the earth," said El-Melighy, who was heading to a Sunday night meeting among Egyptian New Yorkers on the uprising. "They can take anything."

That attitude, in his eyes, makes the uprising all the more remarkable and worth celebrating. And, like Moghul, he thinks it will alter the image of Muslims in this country.

"Thank God for what happened in Tunisia and now in Egypt," he said. "It shows that those who are calling Muslims and Arabs unable to have democracy are now embarrassed."

But ultimately, he said, "This Egyptian uprising is not a Muslim thing. You can see clearly in the videos, that are posted on the Net. Christians and Muslims, hand in hand, arm in arm, men, women and even children."


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Comments [6]

David from Texas

Remember New Orleans after the hurricane? Most of the police did not show up for duty and the majority of those that did were afraid to venture out after nightfall because of the crime. It was up to the citizens to defend themselves. We see the same thing happening in Egypt. The 9/11 commission reported that it was not a matter of if -- but when terrorists will attack the United States with a nuclear weapon. What do you think that will be like? Think you will need to be armed to protect your family? The NRA just reported that Obama is preparing to push gun control. For those that want privately owned firearms taken up by government – go ahead go unarmed – just don’t come looking for protection when society reverts to the law of jungle. Just keep thinking it will not happen to you.

Jan. 31 2011 08:46 PM
Charles Chen from New Jersey, USA

Found it!

A must listen for folks interested in this issue.

Chapter 9:

Jan. 31 2011 11:48 AM
Charles Chen from New Jersey, USA

I heard an interview with Prince Hassan bin Talal of Jordan this morning on the BBC World Service.

Can anyone point me to where I can get a transcript or a replay of the interview? I found his views and articulation of the problems in the region fascinating.

Jan. 31 2011 11:06 AM
Ahmet from NYC

Dear all, the world is changing before our eyes. Here is أحب عيشة الحرية pronounced "Aheb Eisht Al Hurriyeh," (I Love the Life of Freedom), an anthem to global unity and equality my father taught me that has been sung for civil rights movements across the Arab world since the 1930's. I have just released this video and mp3 to be used freely by all those who are peacefully working to build the international movement for a more just society. With words by Egyptian poet-laureate Ahmed Shawki, it was first put to music in the 1930's by great Egyptian composer Mohamed Abdel Wahab. This new recording, with video intros in English and French version, is from my upcoming album with visionary producer Hal Willner. Please help me by spreading this beautiful and timely global message, the world needs us. This is our moment! Share the video and mp3, retweet it and Facebook it today. We want to live in freedom!
YouTube ENGLISH version @
YouTube, FRENCH version @
mp3 @
Facebook @
or tweet: Arab Freedom Anthem @stephansaid @ video and free mp3 retweet!

Jan. 31 2011 10:58 AM
whoindatgarden from Manhattan

Will what is unfolding in Egypt also happen in Pakistan.
For most of it's 60 plus years as an Independent country, Pakistan has had military rule, with a lot of help from the U.S. just like Egypt.
So will Pakistani have civil unrest and will the Army sit it out? Will the U.S. allow that given there are strategic calculations and the nuclear weapons that have to be taken into.Free and Fair may not happen.

Jan. 31 2011 10:04 AM

Jan. 30 2011 11:23 PM

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