EGYPT: Cautiously celebrating Obama’s new Muslim advisor


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Egyptians cautiously rejoiced at the recent appointment of a veiled Egyptian American Muslim woman as an advisor to President Obama. Dalia Mogahed, senior analyst and executive director of the Gallup Center for Muslim Studies, was appointed earlier this month to Obama’s Advisory Council on Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships.

“Dalia Mogahed is the best example of a successful Muslim woman. She proves that the Muslim should be successful in all fields at least in [her] area of specialization,” wrote a commenter on the website of Al Masry al Youm independent daily.


Another writer to the newspaper’s site, Saled Abdel Hamdi, said: “Congratulations! I wish that you convey the truth in full to an understanding man and not to a one-track minded who wants to shape the world the way he wants or the way they want.”

The Egyptian-born Mogahed moved with her family to the United States almost 30 years ago. Recently, she co-authored the book “Who Speaks for Islam?” with John Esposito, an American political science professor who has been criticized by some as an Islamic apologist. Last year, Mogahed and Esposito published an opinion piece in The Times discussing American ignorance of Islam and the Muslim world. (An earlier version of this post incorrectly said that the opinion piece appeared in The Times earlier this month.)

“My work focuses on studying Muslims, the way they think and their views,” Mogahed was quoted as saying on the website of Saudi-owned Al Arabiya satellite news channel. “Then I should tell the president about their problems and needs, especially that lately Muslims have been perceived as a source of problems and as incapable of taking part in solving international problems and that they should work on themselves. Now we want to say that Muslims are capable of providing solutions,”

“We are all proud of you, we hope that you transfer to Obama the true message of Islam and manage to give him the correct explanation of what happens around him in the Arab and Muslim World,” wrote Hisham Minawi.

Yet Megahed’s declaration that her loyalty goes to the United States first in an interview published Monday in Al Masry al Youm disappointed some of her fans. “I wish your loyalty was to your Islam first, Egypt second and your Arabism third and then to anything else. I am afraid that they might make a fool out of you and use you as a cover for policies that don’t serve Egypt and the Arab and Muslim world,” wrote a reader identifying himself as the Tiger of Arabs.

-- Noha El-Hennawy in Cairo