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Utah Muslims weigh in on Egyptian power transfer

Published: Saturday, Feb. 12 2011 9:53 p.m. MST

WEST VALLEY CITY — The change of power in Egypt has many Muslims in Utah asking what it means to them and what role religion will play in the new government.

Imam Muhammed Mehtar, the religious leader at Khadeeja Islamic Center in West Valley City, said he and others are cautiously optimistic about Egypt's future — hoping a new government means stability in the Middle East, but concerned that the Muslim Brotherhood will bring radical fundamentalism to that country.

"When these protesters broke out, I remember the members of our congregation saying, 'Islam has a negative image to begin with. We just hope these protesters do not do things that further aggravate the matter,' " Mehtar said.

He explained that Egyptian Muslims don't lean toward fundamentalism and that indications are that radical groups "will not be getting the upper hand."

America and Egypt, he said, have a close and important relationship and it should remain so.

"From an economic aspect, America has given a profound level of aid to Egypt in the past 30 years. So I think it is very important for America to take an active stand in as far as assisting in this transition, ensuring that safety can be given towards its people, because we firmly believe that the safety of the people of Egypt is the safety of the Middle East and the world as well. I think America's role is important, has always been important and I think they should be continually more active."

Tarek Nosser lived in Egypt for 16 years; many family members are still there, and some participated in the demonstrations.

"The Egyptians heard the echoes of our government calling out and us, as people for democracy around the world," Nosser said. "It's truly remarkable what this generation achieved. It's really a lesson, I think, and a new chapter for the world."

Egyptian society represented about 30 percent to 40 percent of the Arab population, which is a huge number and factor, Nosser said.

"I pray and I ask everybody that we all stand together and make sure that this is a turning point that we all live in peace together," he said. "And I think it will be."

No nation waits with more anticipation than Israel. The two neighbors have had peaceful relations for decades.

Rabbi Benny Zippel, the leader of Chabad Lubavitch of Utah, hopes first that the Egyptians will restore calm to their cities and then remain a friend to the Israelis.

"It is crucial for us, living in the U.S. in a free democracy, that we pray for the well-being of our brethren in Egypt, that peace and serenity and calmness be restored in their midst, and that they find a way to govern the people in a unified fashion and that the country be able to gather itself together and move towards productivity and success," he said.

"Egypt being so close that is a win-win situation for everybody for all when we can restore peace, tranquility and harmony amongst people, I think we all stand to gain from it," Zippel added. "I pray that we're able to see the implementation of the powerful words of the prophet Isaiah, that 'the wolf shall lie with the lamb,' and that people will be able, once and forever, to live with one another in peace and harmony."

e-mail: cmikita@desnews.com

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