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For the Common Egyptian, This Is a People's Coup

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After spending days glued to the ten or so Arabic TV channels one can get via satellite in northern Wisconsin while visiting my father, my family in the U.S., as well as extended family in Egypt and all over the world broke out in cheers and congratulations when Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi was deposed on July 3rd. My family, and millions and millions of other "common Egyptians" see Morsi's ousting as a result of their support of Tamurud, an on-the-ground and online movement against the Morsi government known as Rebel. The Tamarud movement is a grassroots effort to collect millions of signatures to recall Morsi who was only a year into his term. The movement resonated with the common man and woman who grew to believe that Morsi's government and his Freedom and Justice Party, the political arm of the Muslim Brotherhood (MB), did not respond to the needs of Egypt. Millions of Egyptians flooded the streets on the June 30th call to "rebel!"

On July 3rd shortly after Egypt's top military general announced the ousting of President Morsi and a roadmap for a transitional period, we turned the TV channels to see the American media's reaction. We found the U.S. media not able to comprehend the joy of the common Egyptian demonstrator who had spent days in 110 degree weather demanding Morsi to "leave." Western pundits and analysts continue to describe what transpired as a military coup by Egypt's powerful military. The common Egyptian sees only a military intervention. He sees what happened in Egypt as the Tamarud roadmap, not the military's plan. The roadmap includes a civilian interim president; a judge who headed the constitutional court. The plan calls for a transitional period during which Egypt will hold presidential elections and the writing of a new constitution.
These recent events in Egypt, and their outcome, have surprised many, but not the common Egyptian who freed himself in the 2011 revolution from 30 years of former President Hosni Mubarak's police state. At that time my cousin Karim Helmi Taman, a young man living under 30 years of martial law, said with a deep satisfaction, "I will never be afraid again." He and Egypt's 85 million citizens no longer fear the government and powerful institutions such as the military and the police.

The common Egyptian, self-described in the Egyptian vernacular as "el-masri el-aadi," is not just an impatient citizen who had not given the Morsi government the time in office. My uncle, Helmi Taman, explained his intentions to join the June 30th protests in Alexandria. He said "I would ideally have liked to see Morsi replaced in a future election, however we have not yet established democratic processes in Egypt. There is no precedent of regular elections and no guarantee he will ever leave."

My uncle and many other common Egyptians are fearful of the unchecked power of the Muslim Brotherhood. Many of these common Egyptians had voted for Morsi with hopes that the Brotherhood, working as a partner with other political groups, would help fulfill the dream of a democratic Egypt. However they quickly became disenchanted with the Morsi government, then concerned, then clearly angry with what they saw as incompetence and the inability to deal with Mubarak's former cronies to whom they attribute the electricity outages and gasoline shortages plaguing the country. They also saw Morsi acquiescing to the Muslim Brotherhood with government appoints to MB members and affiliates. In the last year there have been serious incidents of violence and few Egyptians would disagree that the government had not taken enough steps to bring security and reform the central police.

In Morsi's short term there were many political battles over the constitution writing process which the common Egyptian felt was railroaded leaving a document limiting personal freedoms and human rights and sidelining Egypt's Christian community. The common Egyptian is generally a traditionally practicing Muslim, i.e. praying five times daily, fasting Ramadan, invoking the name of God in all matters small and large; or a church-going and involved Christian. However, he or she does not wish the country to be governed primarily from a religious context. And while it is difficult to express so that he is not misunderstood and therefore vulnerable to attacks on his personal morality, he does not see Islam providing for all needs of a modern government.

At this time the common Egyptian is happy with the Tamarud transitional plan, thankful for the Egyptian military's role in making it happen, and elated with own his power; the power of the people who ousted Morsi and the Muslim Brotherhood in a people's coup.

Yet is it clear that Egypt is a divided society and as there were millions of anti-Morsi protestors, there are hundreds of thousands of pro-Morsi protestors. They spent the last few days in gender separated demonstrations and many are still there. These are MB supporters and they are angry that their President, the first democratically elected in Egypt's history, has been deposed in what they say is an illegitimate military coup. Throughout the June 30th events the AlJazeera TV channel tended to sympathize with the pro-Morsi demonstrators. The Brotherhood supporter, el-ikhwany in the Egyptian Arabic, is a different Egyptian whose hope is to integrate his understanding of Islam into his government, often regardless of the needs and perspectives of others. He is likely to see the fate of Morsi as an attack on the religion of Islam itself.

There is a poignant message being sent around from the common Egyptians to their ikhwany friends, neighbors and relatives. Upon Prophet Muhammad's death, Abu Bakr, the Prophet's companion, reminded the Muslims that if they worshiped Muhammad then he is dead but if they are Muslims then Islam is alive and will not die. To those that worship the Muslim Brotherhood, know they have been removed from power, but Islam is alive and well.