Arun Venugopal is a reporter and the creator of Micropolis, WNYC’s multi-platform series examining race, sexuality, religion, street life and other issues that define New York City. He has been with the station since 2005, and has covered a wide range of stories, including the death of Sean Bell, the controversy over the Park 51 mosque and community center and Occupy Wall Street .
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."