URBANA – There was a lot of excitement but no love for Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak among Muslim- and Arab-Americans as he ended his 30-year rule.
University of Illinois students drove around town waving flags, while older residents expressed delight more quietly.
Egyptian native Ahmed Taha, a research programmer at the National Center for Supercomputing Applications, called the end of Mubarak's reign "a dream come true."
"He should have left many years ago," he said. "It is long overdue."
As president of the Muslim American Association in Urbana, Taha, who came to the U.S. in 1996, said that Mubarak had made it impossible for many to live in his native land.
"What happened in the last few days has been on the ground for years and years. He had people suppressed, jailed, even killed, and it came to an end today," Taha said.
UI religion Professor Mohammad Khalil, whose mother lives in Egypt, said he was thrilled by the turn of events.
"This is a beautiful, beautiful moment, one that I hope will translate into a brighter future for Egypt and the Middle East," he said. "I never imagined I would live to see this, and I'm only in my 30s."
Today, a dinner and celebration to mark Mubarak's stepping down will be held by Egyptian students, the local Egyptian community, Muslims and others.
It is scheduled for 4:30 to 8 p.m. at the Muslim American Society Center, 2011 Brownfield Road, U.
"There will be a lot of different people there with different perspectives: students, professors, the young, the working class," said Patsy Howell of the Muslim American Society.
The event is sponsored by the Egyptian Student Association on campus and the Muslim American Society.
Howell said "people are really surprised and joyous in this community."
"At times, when there was looting and people had family members that needed to be protected, it was traumatic. People are excited and relieved," she said.
She said that applies to many Muslims who are not Egyptian, as well.
"This is historic for a lot of the oppressed countries. The leadership in the Middle East in different places are bleeding the country. There's poverty. You aren't as concerned about higher political goals when you're not eating. A lot of people here have been sending relatives money," she said.
Taha acknowledged Mubarak had done some good in developing Egypt's infrastructure.
"But the corruption that took place in his reign – economic, political, social, financial, moral – demolished the foundation of the country," he said. "The huge resources Egypt used to enjoy for years, for centuries, for thousands of years – Mubarak exhausted all of these resources."
Taha said he hoped that the Egyptian military would gradually hand over reins to an elected government, noting that generals have largely run the nation since a coup in 1952, and that needed to change.
Taha said he hoped that the "billions" Mubarak took from his own people will soon flow into public coffers and help with the poverty there.
Swiss banks froze Mubarak's many accounts Friday.
"A committee will pursue that with the banks to freeze assets and return the money. He's taken billions. But Egypt will take its place in the world. It has a lot of natural resources to pay off debt and restart development," said Taha, whose most recent return visit was less than a year ago.