MEMRI has reported on an article by self-described Muslim Brotherhood “foreign minister” Youssef Nada in which he argues that Shia Islam is a legitimate Islamic religious school. According to the report:
A pro-Shi’ite article by prominent Muslim Brotherhood official Yousef Nada has sparked a debate within the movement regarding its position on the Shi’a. In the article, which was published on the Muslim Brotherhood website, Nada argues that the Shi’a is not foreign to Islam, but constitutes a fifth religious school alongside the four Sunni schools. He also states that the conflict between the Shi’ites and the Sunnis is not religious but political in nature, and condemns Sunni Muslims who malign the Shi’a and its followers. Nada’s article evoked criticism within the Muslim Brotherhood. Mahmoud Ghazlan, member of the Supreme Guide’s office, wrote that Nada’s opinions contravened the standard Sunni doctrine, and did not reflect the position of the Muslim Brotherhood, but only his own personal views. However, the Muslim Brotherhood Supreme Guide himself, Muhammad Mahdi ‘Akef, intervened in the argument, stating that Nada’s views are largely consistent with those of the movement, and that the Sunni-Shi’ite conflict is indeed political rather than religious. The debate on the Shi’a within the Muslim Brotherhood may reflect an attempt by its leaders to prepare the ground for closer and more open ties with Iran. This view was taken by the editor of the Egyptian weekly Roz Al-Yousef, ‘Abdallah Kamal. He assessed that, through this debate, the Brotherhood was trying to legitimize a future alliance with Iran, which would suit its purposes in the present regional circumstances.
Nada, and his partner Ghaleb Ali Himmat, are best known for their role in establishing the infamous and now-defunct Al Taqwa Bank located “offshore” in the Bahamas. Numerous Muslim Brotherhood luminaries held shares in the bank, including the bank’s Sharia supervisor Sheikh Youssef Qaradawi and his family, which was supposed to conduct business in accord with Islamic principles. The bank was closed in 2000 after what Nada said were unforeseen developments related to the Asian financial crisis and a run on the bank caused by unfavorable publicity generated by accusations that the bank was funding Hamas. No documentation of the bank’s activities has ever been produced and Nada has refused to hand over the bank records which he said were moved to Saudi Arabia. Nada has claimed to be the acting “foreign minister” for the Muslim Brotherhood and is known to have met with Saddam Hussein. Prosecution of Nada and Al Taqwa has also been dropped in Switzerland and Italy recently but Nada, Himmat, Nasreddin, and Al Taqwa remain on the U.S. and other lists of designated terrorists.