Naglaa Mahmoud, wife of Egypt’s newly elected President Mohammed Mursi does not want to be called “first lady” like her predecessors and prefers instead to be referred to as the servant of Egypt.
“Islam does not distinguish between one woman and another. We are all Egyptians and we have to unite for our nation,” she told the Muslim Brotherhood’s official website Ikhwan Online.
Mahmoud said she prefers to be called “Um Ahmed” (mother of Ahmed) in reference to her oldest son or the “hajja,” the designation of women who have completed the Muslim pilgrimage in Mecca.
“And if I need to have a title now then let be ‘Egypt’s first servant.’”
Mahmoud’s veil has been the subject of intense debate in Egypt as she will be the first lady in modern times to wear a veil.
Starting from Queen Nariman, wife of late Egyptian King Farouk, who was ousted by the 1952 Revolution, and ending with Suzanne Thabet, wife of Hosni Mubarak, the first lady’s outfit ever had any religious connotation and was of the type referred to as “western” or “secular.”
Queen Nariman was known for her elegance and being up to date in the latest trends in fashion.
Tahia Kazem, wife of late Egyptian President Gamal Abdel Nasser, was subtle in her elegance generally maintained a low profile and had no role in politics. It was only after Nasser passed away that she broke her silence and published her memoirs about her life with him.
Jihan Raouf, wife of late Egyptian President Anwar Sadat, was not only distinguishable by her modern outfits, but also because was the first wife of an Egyptian ruler to engage in public life. She was involved in several charity projects and was especially interested in the empowerment of Egyptian women.
Suzanne Thabet, wife of former president Mubarak, stood on equal footing with first ladies around the world as far as elegance and trendiness are concerned. Like Jihan, she was also involved in public life but on a larger scale. In addition to her work for women and children, she also made several initiatives related to eliminating illiteracy and encouraging reading.
As for the new first lady, it is hard to predict what her role, if any, will be. Since little is known about her, no one can tell whether she will take part in community work, accompany her husband on some of his international trips, or just stay away from the limelight.
(Translated from Arabic by Sonia Farid)