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In New York's 'Little Egypt,' Egyptian-Americans cheer Mursi's ouster

Men wave Egyptian flags on the street in the Queens borough of New York, July 3, 2013. REUTERS/Carlo Allegri
Men wave Egyptian flags on the street in the Queens borough of New York, July 3, 2013. REUTERS/Carlo Allegri

By Victoria Cavaliere

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Members of New York's Egyptian community descended on the coffee shops, delis and Hookah bars of "Little Egypt" on Wednesday to celebrate the overthrowing of Islamist President Mohamed Mursi after one year in office.

Some people gathered on the sidewalks of the neighborhood in Astoria, Queens, but most congregated inside the public places and their homes, eyes glued to Arabic-language news programs and TV images of demonstrators in Cairo's Tahrir Square.

"We gave him a chance for one year and he didn't do anything," said Abdilmoniem Mohamed, 55, a Bronx resident who was at the Arab Community Center in Astoria watching coverage of the events.

Mohamed, who moved to New York in 1979, said he had considered the toppling of former president Hosni Mubarak in 2011 the happiest day of his life, until Wednesday, and would now be comfortable allowing his girls, both in their 20s, to visit Egypt.

As word spread up and down the streets of Little Egypt, friends and neighbors greeted each other with effusive congratulations. Egyptian flags were displayed on sidewalks and in store fronts. Outside one cafe, a group of men sang "lift your head high, you're an Egyptian."

Egypt has been in turmoil since Mubarak's fall, arousing concern among allies in the West and in Israel, with which Egypt has a 1979 peace treaty.

On Wednesday, hundreds of thousands of anti-Mursi protesters in Tahrir Square erupted into cheers, set off fireworks and waved flags after Egypt's top army commander announced the suspension of the Islamist-tinged constitution.

The reaction was more subdued in Little Egypt, where the fall the first freely elected president for the Arab world's most populous country, raised some concerns for the safety of friends and family in Egypt and for military rule.

"I'm not happy. I'm not sad. I'm confused," said Ehab Mohamed, owner of Zaitoun, a small store a couple of doors from the community center, who added, "He came in the legal way. They should have made a new election."

Ehab Mohamed said he had voted for Mursi, but was not pleased with his presidency. He also said he did not trust the armed forces to not try to assert a more permanent position.

Heba Khalifa, 35, a medical interpreter who lives in Queens, said she believed Mursi supporters were mostly "in hiding" in the neighborhood. "Believe me they are around, but today they are playing the victim," she said.

Khalifa said she was optimistic about Egypt's future and saw Mursi's ouster as a "curve" in the road to democracy. "Is this the last curve? No. There are more curves ahead," she said.

Her husband, Amr Khalifa, said he was of two minds: "The Egyptian in me is elated," he said, while the intellectual was "aware of the complexities" of the military takeover.

Amr Khalifa said he also was deeply concerned about the safety of his family, most of whom live in Cairo and Alexandria. "Whether the Islamists strike tonight, tomorrow, next week, believe you me, it will happen," he said.

(Writing by David Bailey; Editing by Dan Whitcomb and Lisa Shumaker)

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