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Book review: Inside the Brotherhood in exile

Writer and journalist El-Masry explores life of key Brotherhood figure Youssef Nada, who acted as Brotherhood spokesman on international issues

Mahmoud El-Wardani, Monday 20 May 2013
Godfather - Youssef Nada
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Al-Ab Al-Ruhy (The Godfather) by Charl Fouad El-Masry, Cairo: Nahdet Masr Publishing, 2012. 145pp.

El-Masry’s book takes an in-depth look at a fascinating figure – Youssef Nada.

For many decades, Nada filled the position of the representative of the Muslim Brotherhood for international affairs, speaking in the name of the Brotherhood and playing roles to “stop war between Muslims,” as he describes it, such as the tension between Yemen and Saudi Arabia, between Saddam Hussein and Kuwait, and even during crises between Malaysia and Indonesia.

His name was among the list of terrorism funders following the 9/11 attacks, and his movement was restricted in Switzerland. He holds Italian citizenship, in addition to the Tunisian citizenship granted him by President Bourguiba in the 1960s.

His international financial empire established over 40 years was liquidated, and he lost some $300 million in the process, in addition to the liquidation of the famous Taquwa Bank in which he was largest shareholder.

The biography of Nada is still a full one, especially for a man who wasn't acquitted of the crimes attributed to him until recently, the last of which was a military trial for which he received 10 years in prison in 2006. President Mohamed Morsi pardoned him only in July 2012, meaning only few days into his office, leaving many questions unanswered.

The book documents a series of interviews with Nada conducted by journalist and author Charl Fouad El-Masry over the years 2008 and 2009. The author has also included documents such as Nada’s sentencing documents and his pardon.

According to the book, Nada joined the Brotherhood in 1948 when he was only 17, and spent two years in prison between 1954 and 1956, without being sentenced to anything in particular. He then left the country for Austria and started climbing the ladder in the business world as a cheese-maker.

Nada asserts in an interview that the number of Brotherhood members in the world exceeds 100 million, spread over 72 countries on every continent; yet still he refutes the statement that the Brotherhood is a global organisation, saying only that there are "meetings, regular or irregular, between the leaders from the second or third levels…They discuss, and that cannot be denied, but this cannot be called an international body."

If what Nada is describing isn't an international organisation, then a new definition is needed, for even his own position and power to intervene in international crises is revealing.

The interview that predates the revolution reveals his position on the ‘inheritance project’ whereby Gamal Mubarak would inherit power from his father. "I don't approach the subject as inheritance but as the right of every Egyptian citizen, such that this right isn't associated with power ... If he competes as an Egyptian to an Egyptian, it's his right and I cannot deny him his citizenship."

The interview reveals how Nada, who lived for more than half a century in Europe, was still a master of prevarication and manipulation according to the interests of the Brotherhood and its allies.

According to the author, the chapters were published in Egyptian newspapers during Mubarak’s rule, except for one chapter that concerns his meeting with Saddam Hussein during the occupation of Kuwait, which was arranged via a third party.

The chapter explains that Nada spent two and half hours with Saddam Hussein in Baghdad, trying to convince him to withdraw from Kuwait, but his request was rejected. There's no revealing of secrets of any sorts that would clearly prevent its publication during Mubarak rule.

Nada’s statements would seem to imply that he belongs to the 'reformist' wing of the Brotherhood, while the current Supreme Guide and all the members of the Guidance Bureau all belong to the conservative ‘Qutbi’ school that views all non-Brotherhood members of society as disbelievers.

The coming days will reveal whether Nada will continue his role with the Brotherhood, and how he exactly that role will change now that the group is no longer a secret organisation but an organisation in power.

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