First Lady: first veil - who is the wife of Egypt's new president?
Apparently it’s still not enough for a woman in politics to be an activist, to assist in a successful election campaign and to look after her family: she also has to live up to the stylish expectations of her skeptical public.
Najla has tried to distance herself as much as possible from the former big-spending first lady, Suzanne Mubarak. There are some obvious physical discrepancies between the two: Suzanne Mubarak was most often seen in a tailored pant-suit, where as Najla is a more traditional dresser.
So far we have only seen her in the Islamic head veil - fitting for the wife of an Islamist you might think - but the critics are already saying she’s not fit to represent Egypt abroad in her current apparel.
Last week, a photo of Najla began circulating on the internet showing her donning the conservative Islamic Khimar, a type of veil that covers the hair and falls loosely below the chest.
Egyptian netizens were brutal, posting comments like “She looks unpresentable with the cape or drapes uniform.”
And: “It’s great to have a 1st lady who hasn’t the faintest idea about progressive women’s rights.”
Cairo Scene’s lifestyle and entertainment website “The Scenario” went one step further and wrote a post titled: Are you trying to seduce me, Mrs. Morsi? With a photo of Najla attached and the question: “Is this the woman you want to represent Egypt?”
But moving outside of Zamalek and Heliopolis in Cairo, many Egyptian women look just like Najla. Or, at least, a lot more like the current First Lady than the former one and she is a representative of the new Egypt: more religious and more concerned with its ordinary citizens.
Najla Mahmoud, Egypt’s new First Lady, was born in Cairo in 1962. She is Mohammad Morsi's first cousin from her maternal side and married the new president in1979: the couple has four sons and a daughter together.
As a young woman, she joined the Muslim Brotherhood in the US, where she lived with her husband while he studied at the University of Southern California. She has been an active member of the Brotherhood for many years alongside running multiple charity projects, particularly in the field of education and working as a translator at the same time.
Following the momentous election victory of Mohammed Morsi on Sunday, the family moved into the presidential palace. Najla previously told Egypt Today that she didn’t want to live in the former Mubarak house and would look instead for a place in Cairo’s fifth district, where she could entertain visitors more readily.
According to a recent interview in one of the Egyptian papers, she does not even like the title of ‘First Lady’ saying," Islam taught us that the next president, is the first servant of Egypt, this means that his wife is also the servant of Egypt. Any title that has been forced upon us must be gone with, it should disappear from my political and social dictionary".
But Najla sees herself first and foremost as a mother: in a rare interview with the Egyptian press she told the reporter she preferred to be called ‘Em Ahmed’ (mother of Ahmed) above any other title.
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