The Free Press, Mankato, MN

July 12, 2013

Mankato man from Cairo reflects on unrest

Maged Lotfy headed back to Egypt today

By Amanda Dyslin

---- — MANKATO — Despite ongoing reports of massive protests of Muslim Brotherhood supporters, Maged Lotfy of Mankato is headed there today to his native city of Cairo.

In fact, Lotfy's wife has been there for two months with the Lotfys' daughter who just gave birth to their grandchild. And while the capital city appears to be in a state of complete unrest, Lotfy said that's not the case.

“It is safe. It is very safe,” Lotfy said. “Almost everything is settled.”

Lotfy has two sons who attended Minnesota State University, and he moved to Mankato just a year and a half ago “for a better life,” he said. He's an engineer and is working to perfect his English at Adult Basic Education in Mankato. Meanwhile, though, he's kept a close eye on his home country.

“Even though I am living in Minnesota, in Mankato, I have to watch what's happening in Egypt,” Lotfy said.

On Friday, tens of thousands of supporters of Egypt's Muslim Brotherhood massed in main squares in several cities, waving pictures of Mohammed Morsi and chanting that the head of the military is a "traitor," stepping up denunciations of the army over its removal of the country's first freely elected president.

Islamists vow they can continue their campaign of street rallies as long as necessary to force the reinstitution of Morsi. But at the same time, the new military-backed administration has intensified its crackdown on the leadership of Morsi's Brotherhood, starting criminal investigations against Morsi and issuing arrest warrants on a host of others.

Lotfy believes the Muslim Brotherhood is no longer a threat, and the country is moving in the right direction with the naming of economist Hazem el-Beblawi, a compromise candidate supported by a key Islamist party, as interim prime minister.

Interim President Adli Mansour also appointed former U.N. nuclear agency chief Mohamed ElBaradei as deputy to the president, responsible for foreign affairs, according to USA Today.

“I am excited to see what has happened there,” said Lotfy, who will be in Egypt for the next month.

Lotfy said Morsi's removal was positive. And he's proud of the changes occurring in Egypt. He's looking forward to a new president and a new constitution.

“All will share in that,” Lotfy said. “I am anxious, but I am very optimistic.”

Mankato native and MSU alum Mohamed Sallam recently returned to Minnesota after six weeks in Egypt, where he did research for his dissertation at the University of Minnesota. Sallam's family is from Cairo, and he's traveled to Egypt his whole life, he said.

Sallam left Egypt on the Fourth of July, the day after the armed forces announced the new plan that suspended the country's constitution and removed Morsi. Sallam said he's been indifferent to the events that unfolded.

So many people were excited two and a half years ago for the country's election of Morsi, he said. “And there are a lot of people who are very frustrated right now that democracy was snatched away from them,” he said.

On the other hand, he said, he understands the frustration of many Egyptians who witnessed the swift consolidation of power and control over many important government institutions.

“They said, 'Wait a minute. We just replaced one very strong political entity with another strong political entity,'” Sallam said. “I'd chalk it up to part of the revolutionary process. Revolutions don't come with manuals, and they don't come with rule books.”

While the protests appear to be inundating Egyptian cities, Sallam said most people are going on with life as usual. Even on June 30 when between 8 and 12 million people gathered in protest across the country, there were few casualties in Cairo, Sallam said. And on July 3, when the new plan was announced, Sallam said the people he observed seemed mostly festive.

As for Egypt's future, Sallam said it's anyone's guess. There are a variety of ideologies and visions moving forward, and compromise will be necessary, including making sure members of the Muslim Brotherhood are at the table, he said.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.