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Egyptian Immigrants Consider Returning to Dear Homeland
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February 20, 2011, 11:52 PM
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The hope for positive political change in Egypt has caused a number of its emigres to consider departing for the land of their birth. The New York Times naturally reports this an an upbeat tale of modern diversity and mobility.

The unspoken reality, too negative for the Times, is that most immigrants are essentially squatters who will pick up and go home if circumstances improve. The move is their own business, of course, but the general cheapening of America into a handy world flophouse has demeaned the idea of national community and weakened sovereignty. It doesn’t help that our government allows dual citizenship, which further sends the message that patriotic assimilation is no longer expected of newbies, at least by elites in contrast to citizens.

It goes without saying that a voluntary reduction of Muslims residing in this country would be a beneficial, since clueless Washington thinks that continuing to admit potential enemies is wonderful because it increases diversity. The article doesn’t mention religion, but it’s unlikely that Coptic Christians will be moving back to the homeland, since they are still being murdered in large numbers for their faith.

Most immigrants come only for the money, with no intention of forming a loyalty bond. That is doubly true for persons of more alien cultures, such as Muslims. They won’t be happy without ummah-like social accoutrements, like muezzins squawking the allah prayer five times daily and women made less visible by identity-erasing burqas.

American culture is not a good fit with misogynous, repressive Islam.

Egyptians in America Ponder a Return, New York Times, February 18, 2011

LOS ANGELES — This week, Khaled Abou El Fadl has greeted each fellow Egyptian he sees with one word: �Mabrook,� or congratulations.

But quickly, their joy over the toppling of President Hosni Mubarak gives way to a rapid string of questions. Can they raise money here in the United States to help clean up Tahrir Square? Can they help revive the economy by urging friends to invest in Egyptian companies? Can they successfully lobby for the right to vote even though they have lived abroad for years?

And after weeks of watching events thousands of miles away unfold on television, another thought nags at them: Is it time to go home?

That is a profound question for Egyptian immigrants, many of whom left the country to escape an autocratic government and have built a prosperous life in the United States. They are eager to help rebuild their home country and wonder if they might put their talents to use there, bringing their experience with democracy to help reshape Egyptian society.

And yet many are loath to give up the freedoms they hope to see blossom in Egypt. Mr. Abou El Fadl, a law professor at the University of California, Los Angeles, and a critic of Mr. Mubarak, has spent hours on the phone in the last several days discussing ways to rewrite the Egyptian Constitution, including talks with some of the jurists selected to serve on the panel created by the interim military government.

�My heart, my soul and my intellect is just completely tied up into that, the democratic constitution we need in the Arab world,� he said. �One of the first calls I got was from a colleague there asking me to help. Would I quit my job? I don’t know that yet. I don’t know how to best contribute.�

The conversation about whether to stay or go is repeating itself at countless dinner tables, in urgent telephone calls and in posts on Facebook, particularly among highly educated and younger Egyptians who may have the most to lose by leaving the United States, but also the most to gain.

�I don’t think any of us are not seriously considering moving there,� said Nadine Wahab, 34, a public relations executive in Washington and a leader of the Egyptian Association for Change, which helped organize protests throughout the United States during the last several weeks. �Everyone is asking, What can I do? What would I be going back to? Where am I going to make the most impact?�

There are roughly 300,000 Egyptians living in the United States, according to the most recent census data, with the largest concentrations in Southern California and New York, and a smaller but close-knit cluster in the Washington area.

Hana Elhattab left Egypt five years ago to start college at the University of Maryland. Her parents had moved to the area three years earlier and Ms. Elhattab figured she was saying goodbye to Egypt for good.

�I wasn’t going to move back ever,� she recalled telling people. �But the moment Mubarak was going to be gone, I knew I was going back.�

Since graduating last year, Ms. Elhattab has worked as a policy analyst for a Middle East research group in Washington. When the protests began last month in Cairo, Ms. Elhattab immediately began translating Twitter posts from Arabic to share with an English-speaking audience.

�Everything I have done since I got here has been about creating a career here,� she said. �Now I have to start that over and figure out what is going to be relevant and helpful there. I need to do something that is a real job. I don’t want to go and just be another liability there.�

First, Ms. Elhattab plans to look for a job in international development in the United States and to go to graduate school, which means it could be two or three years before she returns to Egypt. �If I could go tomorrow, I would,� she said.

The same kind of anxious impatience is tugging at Rania Behiri, 31, who left Egypt with her family when she a toddler. She traveled back often, though, and last year married Rami Serry, an Egyptian racecar driver she met through the Internet.

Ms. Behiri was reluctant to move her two sons from a previous marriage to Egypt from West Covina, Calif., and Mr. Serry refused to leave Cairo, so the two resigned themselves to a long-distance marriage.

But last week Ms. Behiri quickly changed her mind, and she is preparing to move next month with her sons, 9 and 12. When she arrives in Egypt, she plans to work for a professional development company her father-in-law runs. A group of Egyptian-born businessmen are working on a fund-raiser in the next several weeks to help her. �People don’t have trust, they don’t have faith and they have been just so oppressed and messed up by the laws that they need to learn how to think for themselves,� Ms. Behiri said. �It’s going to be invaluable. This whole thing showed that people truly can make a difference — so now I feel like, of course, I want to be a part of it.�

Ms. Behiri is one of countless Egyptian immigrants speaking in such grand terms these days, driven by what they saw happen in their birthplace. Many of the Egyptians here say they hope to educate people back home before elections and will press for the right to vote as well.

After years of oppression, Ms. Behiri said, many Egyptians might be deceived by unscrupulous or power-hungry politicians. Friends her age, she said, could be so focused on improving Egypt’s economy that they are willing to overlook religious demands by public officials.

It is not uncommon for exiles to return to their native country to help with rebuilding efforts after a revolution. Less than a decade ago, millions of Afghan refugees were repatriated after the United States-led coalition ousted the Taliban government, and many of them found a place in government, including Hamid Karzai, who is now president.

Many Egyptians come to the United States on student visas, planning to earn graduate degrees and to look for a job in academia. For years, many of them scrambled to find jobs outside Egypt. They worried that working as a professor there would not provide enough money to support a family. More worrisome, they said, was the prospect of limited academic freedom.

Nora Muharram and her husband, Said Fares, assumed that they would try to find a way to remain in the United States once he finished his doctorate in Islamic studies at the U.C.L.A. this spring.

�We never looked forward to going back,� Ms. Muharram said. �The environment would not allow him to publish the kinds of papers he wanted to do or give my children the kind of education I wanted for them. Now all of that has changed, and we are very, very optimistic.�

Ms. Muharram said she was confident that with her background as an electrical engineer, she would be able to find a job.

�People are going to want a better life, to change things, to do something,� she said, her voice rising in excitement. �The picture is still not clear, but at least now I am hearing the hope from everyone.�