News / Middle East

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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Comment Sorting
by: Mustafa Nassef from: Egypt
July 02, 2012 6:54 AM
may be i am not a supporter for President Morsi but I liked the way his wife talked and I wish luck for him and I wish that he will show the real beautiful side of Islamic way of ruling people.

by: Godwin from: Nigeria
June 29, 2012 9:01 AM
The taste of the pudding is in the eating. Good saying, Mrs Morsi, but time will tell if you are right or wrong in what you've said. The warning's been there that Tehran started the same way, promising good deal to the people only to short change them later. Power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely. If she says what we hear her say today and the people experience the freedom here preached after 100days in office, then we shall make our comments. For now we can only say, LET'S WAIT AND SEE!
In Response

by: ahmed ayoub from: egypt
July 03, 2012 7:10 PM
Egypt's Future .yes let's wait and see..i hope we will not wait and wait.
In Response

by: Susan from: London
July 01, 2012 12:34 PM
Islam will make a mockery of Arab democracy... wait and see...

by: Dr. Malek Tauqee/Towghi from: USA
June 29, 2012 2:46 AM
I wish the Quran-Sunnah-based Islam was as generous towards non-Muslims and non-conformist Muslims as the respected good-hearted First Lady of Egypt and her husband undoubtedly are. In order to make Islam compatible to the realities of our modern & maturing world -- and for the maslahah/khayr/Good of Muslims/Islam -- , I hope the Muslim Brotherhood will have the vision and the courage to undertake the re-interpretation of the Quran and the Sunnah, and the reconstruction of the Shari'ah. Until such a thing happens and accepted by a reasonable majority of Muslim opinion leaders, the best course is to separate religion from the management of COMMON educational, civic, state and international affairs.
In Response

by: Gab
July 02, 2012 9:25 AM
How do you separate religion from political Islam? An Oath to others mean nothing if only Muslim Sharia is the rule. We cannot even allow them to take the Oath in the US ""I, [name], do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear arms on behalf of the United States. When required by the law; that I will perform noncombatant service in the Armed Forces of the United States when required by the law; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; that I take this obligation freely, without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion....." I find it hard to believe that an Islamist would be honest if he or she took this Oath to become a citizen of the United States or Europe.
Article 24 of the declaration states: "All the rights and freedoms stipulated in this Declaration are subject to the Islamic Sharia."
Article 19 also says: "There shall be NO crime or punishment EXCEPT as provided for in the Sharia."
The CAIRO DECLARATION OF HUMAN RIGHTS has been criticized for failing to guarantee FREEDOM OF RELIGION as a "fundamental and non-negotiable human right".

ARTICLE 25: "The Islamic Shari'ah is the ONLY source of reference for the explanation or clarification of ANY of the articles of this Declaration."

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