News of the resignation of Egypt’s thirty-year ruler Hosni Mubarak sent waves of excitement through the Chicago area’s Muslim community as they went to afternoon prayer services Friday. Egyptian-American worshipers at the Mosque Foundation in Bridgeview, Illinois, cried with relief as they called the change a “watershed moment” in the history of Egypt and the Middle East. “We are so proud,” said Raba Gomaa during a press conference arranged by the Council of Islamic Organizations of Greater Chicago.
Though the change in Egypt’s regime was announced just hours before the service began, it was the topic of Sheikh Jamal Said’s sermon. “We would like to congratulate our brothers and sisters in Egypt,” said Said. “The tyrant is gone, Elhamdulillah. The tyrant is gone.” In the women’s worship space below, female congregants jubilantly greeted each other with the Arabic phrase that has become a refrain during the weeks of protest: “Tahya Masr!” (“Long Live Egypt”).
The high emotions followed a period of deep despondency that set in with many Thursday, when Mubarak indicated in a speech that he had no intention of stepping down. But Karima Mohamed, who left Egypt roughly 20 years ago, said when she heard that speech she knew Mubarak’s time was coming to an end. “After two minutes we know something (was going to) happen,” said Mohamed. “The people (would) not accept it because he tried to play a game on the people, but the people over there, they're more smarter than what he did.”
Others at the service said they believe the change in Egypt will ripple through the rest of the Middle East. “There’s 22 Arabic-speaking countries,” said Dr. Zaher Sahloul, president of the CIOGC. “Two of them are right now free: Tunisia and Egypt. Twenty are left.” Oussama Jamal, Vice President of the Mosque Foundation, expressed similar hopes that the developments in Egypt won’t stop at that country’s borders. “We hope it is a cold, and everybody will catch it soon,” he said.
Many of the Egyptian-Americans said they are confident that their countrymen will successfully steer through the transition period to a peaceful and fair democracy, and they’re looking forward to helping in any way they can. “In ten years you can see you can see Egypt not less than Europe or America,” said Mohamed. “It will be in the top again, insh’Allah.”