Brooklyn’s Egyptian Christians Worry About Muslim Brotherhood Rule

Hany Youssef standing outside the Coptic Orthodox Church of St. George in Dyker Heights on Sunday morning. (Photo by Jihii Jolly via The Brooklyn Ink)

The swearing-in of the Muslim Brotherhood’s Mohamad Morsi as Egypt’s first ever democratically elected President has evoked mixed feelings in the Brooklyn’s Egyptian community, The Brooklyn Ink reported.

Coptic Christians and Muslims based in the Bay Ridge and Dyker Heights sections of Brooklyn are distinctly divided over Morsi’s election, according to the newspaper. Egyptian Christian immigrants — though happy with the end of Mubarak era — are skeptical about the future of the Christian minority in a Muslim Brotherhood-led country.

Many Coptic Christians told Brooklyn Ink that they fear living in an Egypt governed by an Islamist.

“We’re traumatized,” says Dalia Wassef, a 44-year-old partner in a health firm who, like Youssef, attends the Coptic Orthodox Church of St. George in Dyker Heights. “If this was an election that was administered by a true democratic staff, I would have really trusted the results. But I am very skeptical. The actions happening around the decision makes me suspicious that they are not truthful.”

Hany Youssef, who voided his ballot at the Egyptian Consulate in New York City on June 10 by voting both for Mohamed Morsi and his rival Ahmed Shafik as a “protest,” said he doesn’t trust the Muslim Brotherhood.

“Part of it is relief that the Mubarak regime is not coming back to power,” he said, “but there is also concern because the Muslim Brotherhood is full of turning tables around and an extensive history of lies.” Turning a bit more hopeful, he added, “If they manage to keep their promise of a real diverse government and newly elected parliament, there are high chances of going in the right direction.”

Egypt’s Supreme Court dissolved the country’s parliament on June 14, saying one third of the members were elected illegally. The Muslim Brotherhood had won almost half of the seats in the dissolved parliament. Morsi is looking for ways to reverse the court decision by going into appeal.

Youssef addressed this point, saying, “If they appeal the dissolving of the parliament and the same parliament comes back with a total Muslim Brotherhood government, we are basically screwed.”

He fears an Islamic state that would control social and personal freedoms. “We have a few examples of a complete Islamic reign,” he explains. “Saudi Arabia, Afghanistan, and Iraq. The main thing is personal freedoms. What you choose to wear is controlled by the government. The freedom of media, of art, and creativity is also controlled. The freedom of tourism is controlled, of literature.”

Only about half — 48 percent — of the 10 million Egyptian expatriates voted in the election, The Brooklyn Ink reported. Egyptian immigrants in New York City were almost evenly divided into two camps, with Christians supporting Ahmad Shafiq and Muslims going Morsi’s way.

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