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Future First Lady Discusses Egypt's Future

  • Elizabeth Arrott

Naglaa Ali Mahmoud, wife of Egypt's president-elect Mohamed Morsi, shuns the title of first lady, preferring instead the idea of a servant to the nation.

A sharper contrast to her predecessor, Suzanne Mubarak is hard to imagine. Both married future presidents while still in their teens, but the glittered, Westernized style of Mubarak proved alienating to many Egyptians. The abaya-wearing Mahmoud's life as a homemaker reflects, if nothing else, an Egypt more familiar to most.

In a rare interview granted to a Western news agency, Mahmoud spoke with VOA early in the campaign at the Morsi home in Edwa, in the eastern Nile Delta. With her husband upstairs and her grandchildren and their friends from the village playing in the room next door, she discussed her early marriage, the Muslim Brotherhood, and what lies ahead.

On Dr. Morsi, as she refers to him, joining the Muslim Brotherhood, and her life as a teenage wife with her then-graduate student husband in California

"The doctor joined the Brotherhood 31 years ago, when we were in Los Angeles. The Brothers were completely frank and explained that such a life could entail detention and one of the most important things is that the wife agreed to such a path so the household does not get shaken. To us [the Brotherhood] the family is a very important thing. So, if the wife cannot bear these expectations, you're exempt. Dr. Morsi came and told me the Brotherhood said this, that there could be detention and loss of employment. All of that while we were still in America. And I told him, 'No problem. No problem. Let's head down that road, God willing.'"

On leading the country, and the central role of the Muslim Brotherhood in their lives. Morsi, after his election, publicly resigned from the movement, which is led by a Shura council.

"This is the reason why we have many worries about [being in] any sensitive or responsible rank. We get concerned, not happy. We become worried and afraid, but of course ultimately we have an institution to which we comply to its words. We comply to its Shura council and this is our duty towards Egypt during this current time."

Her message to Egypt's Coptic Christians

"I would like to say that we are one homeland, one fabric. Islam does not differentiate between a Muslim and a Christian. On the contrary, we have learned in Islam that a Muslim and a Christian have the same full rights in the same homeland. They have what we have, and have our same obligations. I personally know in the society Christian women and men and, thanks be to God, my relations with them are good."

On the role of first lady and the president

"We in the Muslim Brotherhood consider it the first servant, because the republic’s president is supposed to be the first servant to Egypt. He is the one who sponsors, and this is Islam. In Islam whoever was in charge or handled the country’s affairs [for example], our master Omar Ibn El Khattab used to say, 'if a camel stumbles in the Levant I will be held responsible' This is Islam.

On her husband

"He is a very balanced person, very serious. Not because he is my husband, no. It is true. It's his real nature, he is a very balanced and rational person with a political mentality. I mean I've been married to him for almost 31-32 years. I can’t say he's comedian, but he has a sense of humor and is entertaining. He is serious at serious time, entertaining during down time."

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