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Local Egyptians see nation hanging in the balance

Cambridge businessowner Nadeem Mazen says Egyptians should be more skeptical of the military.

MATTHEW J. LEE/GLOBE STAFF

Cambridge businessowner Nadeem Mazen says Egyptians should be more skeptical of the military.

As Egypt began to look more like a war zone on Friday in the wake of massive protests and a military takeover that ended the reign of the nation’s first democratically elected president, Adel Abu-Moustafa and other Egyptians in the Boston area worried about the mounting violence and future of their country.

Like many of his countrymen in the United States, Abu-Moustafa, the retired dean of international affairs at Tufts University of School of Medicine, described himself as “absolutely delighted” to see President Mohammed Morsi forced from power.

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He blames Morsi for trying to transform Egypt into a country dominated more by religious law than civil law. He also accuses Morsi of misappropriating his power by trying to muzzle the media and appointing members of his Islamist political party, the Muslim Brotherhood, to political positions throughout the country.

“He mishandled the situation from Day One,” said Abu-Moustafa, 73, a resident of Concord.

Abu-Moustafa worries about the prospect of civil war as large crowds of Islamist supporters clashed with security forces and vowed to continue their revolt until the army releases Morsi from a military compound, where he has been taken into custody. Reports from the region said at least 30 people have died in confrontations across the country.

“We’re seeing a very dangerous situation develop,” Abu-Moustafa said. “I hope civil war will not happen, but who knows what’s going to happen? I hope the move to an early election will cool the situation.”

Morsi was in power for only a year before being ousted by the military on Wednesday. Since then, security forces have arrested dozens of senior members of the Muslim Brotherhood and shuttered its offices and TV stations. The former chief justice of the Supreme Constitutional Court, Adli Mansour, was appointed interim president by the military.

Egypt’s military commanders, who promised to call new elections soon, said they had to remove Morsi from power because he was bucking the will of the millions of people who had been demonstrating against him in recent days. They accuse him of damaging the economy and aggravating relations between Christians and Muslims, among other groups.

Nadeem Mazen, 29, who owns an educational media and interactive software company in Cambridge, is no fan of Morsi, but he worries about the precedent of the military removing a freely elected president, even one who lost the support of many Egyptians.

“A lot of people who are otherwise analytical and measured are super excited about the coup, but there’s an undercurrent of discussion, which I’m part of, that a coup is always a bad and dubious idea,” he said.

He urged Egyptians to be more skeptical of the military.

“We now have a situation of the military owning a huge amount of the economic might of the nation, and we’re actually cheering them on as they depose a democratically elected leader,” said Mazen, who grew up in the United States but has many relatives living there. “That will be dangerous for the future of democracy as it tries to take root in Egypt.”

Walid Saleh, who moved to Boston when he was a child and has dual citizenship, argues that the military had no choice but to push Morsi from power.

“Obviously, protesting didn’t work,” said Saleh, 27, who also has many relatives in the Cairo area. “I don’t see how else he could have been removed. This was their only choice to get rid of him.”

Boston University professor Farouk El-Baz said he wanted to see Morsi succeed. He had hoped the new president would expand his base beyond the Muslim Brotherhood, a conservative group that had long been banned by the regime led by Hosni Mubarak, the longtime dictator who was overthrown after a similar wave of protests in February 2011.

But he argues that Morsi, like Mubarek, arrogated power and tried to recast Egypt in the mold of the Brotherhood, which represses women, wants to ban alcohol, and sought to have Egypt governed by Islamic law.

“He had an opportunity to rule and make sure the Brotherhood became part of the society,” said El-Baz, 75, director of the Center for Remote Sensing at Boston University, which studies satellite imaging. “But they became too enamored with their own power and wanted everyone else to shut up.”

He and others said the Brotherhood should be allowed to take part in future elections, as they still represent a large segment of nation’s 84 million people. He just hopes the opposition will be better organized than in the last election, when Morsi defeated a former member of the Mubarek regime by a slim margin.

“They have a right to be angry about what happened,” he said. “We just want a government that respects the people.”

David Abel can be reached at dabel@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @davabel.
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