WASHINGTON— Egyptian-Americans are closely watching developments in Egypt. According to estimates, there are more than 200,000 people of Egyptian background living in the United States and while a majority of them are Coptic Christians, many Egyptian-Americans are divided over whether they support the ousted Muslim Brotherhood government of Mohamed Morsi or the new military-led administration in Cairo that has led the bloody crackdown against Morsi supporters.
Safi Hamed is a member of the newly established organization, Operation Save Democracy, which is blaming the Egyptian military for the current crisis, claiming it ignored a Brotherhood compromise proposal to ease tensions by allowing an independent interim prime minister run the country until a new president could be elected. Hamed said that the military and its hand-picked government "were not interested."
“The blame has to be assigned to the military and its appointed interim government because they preferred resorting to force and violence over a negotiated settlement to end the political crisis.”
But Mokhtar Kamel disagrees. He is the president of the Egyptian-American Alliance which supports the new military-backed government. He said the Brotherhood’s negotiating position was inflexible and that this led to the crisis. “They insisted to reinstate their ousted president and restore the faulty constitution and their Islamist-dominated Shura Council before [entering into] any political dialogue.”
Kamel blamed Morsi supporters for the violence and said they sought to dominate all political life in Egypt by adopting a constitution that lacked public support.
Maher Hathout is a former Muslim Brotherhood member no longer active in the organization. As a spokesman for the Islamic Center of Southern California, he said he is not surprised by the behavior of both sides.
“The military does not play games when it comes to law and order, they use the language they know better - violence, and the other side has no experience whatsoever on how to play politics,” Hathout said.
Both sides look to US leadership
While Egyptian-Americans disagree over what caused the crisis, many said they would like to see the U.S. take a more active role in diffusing the situation.
On Thursday, President Obama slammed the interim government and security forces for their actions and what he called the pursuit of martial law. He also cancelled a biennial military exercise with Egypt, known as “Bright Start," that was scheduled for next month.”
Safi Hamed said he wanted more from the president. “We expect a more powerful position that immediately denounces the military coup in Egypt and calls it what it really is, and then [put pressure on] the Egyptian military by actually cutting U.S. military aid until governance [in] Egypt restores [its] legitimacy,” he said.
Meanwhile, Mokhtar Kamel who supports the military-led government, said Obama is ignoring what he calls the Brotherhood's role in creating the crisis and the violence that has claimed hundreds of lives.
“The US position lacks balance by neglecting to mention how the intransigence of the Brotherhood and their religious fervor led to the stalemate and that their sit-in was not peaceful as they claim,” he said.
Kamel said he expects more bloodshed in the streets of Egypt in coming days but he held out hope for the future. “A new paradigm is replacing an antiquated one,” he said.
For Safi Hamed the future depends on international efforts to end the crisis. “If the U.S. and the international community insisted on restoring legitimacy in governing Egypt away from the military domination, Egypt could see a better tomorrow,” he said. If the international community does not act, Hamed said Egypt is destined to enter a “very gloomy chapter in its history.”