Hizb ut-Tahrir Emerges in America
Hizb ut-Tahrir Background
Posted: July 28, 2009
Hizb ut-Tahrir (HT), Arabic for "Party of Liberation," is an international organization that seeks to establish a global Islamic caliphate. Established in Jerusalem in 1953, HT claims to be a political organization "whose ideology is Islam."
HT maintains an extensive international following; it is currently active in more than 45 countries, and its August 2007 convention in Indonesia drew approximately 100,000 delegates.
HT's strategy to establish a global Islamic caliphate consists of three stages. In the first, the group seeks to recruit "people who believe in the idea and the method of the Party." This stage mimics that of the prophet Muhammad, who "gathered together secretly those who believed in him on the basis of this ideology," according to HT's Web site.
In the second stage, HT seeks to educate the larger Muslim community about its interpretation of Islam so that the community can work "to establish it in the affairs of life." This stage consists of approaching the masses through "lessons, lectures, and talks in the mosques, centers, and common gathering places, and through the press, books and leaflets."
The third and final stage entails replacing all governments and implementing a global Islamic caliphate.
HT conferences around the world suggest that the group is currently in the second stage of its goal of establishing a global Islamic government. In commemoration of the anniversary of the abolishment of the Islamic caliphate 85 years ago, HT held worldwide events throughout the summer of 2009, calling "on Muslims around the world to mobilize to re-establish the Islamic Khilafah." In addition to the July 19 conference in Oak Lawn, Illinois, events took place in Ukraine, Mauritius, Lebanon, Tanzania, Bangladesh, Britain, Indonesia, Sudan and Turkey, among other places.
HT claims that it does not engage in violent activities and generally espouses a policy of nonviolence. However, in a January 2010 press release, HT called for violence against U.S. troops stationed in Afghanistan. The group accused "US crusaders" of killing nine school children and injuring 85 others in Afghanistan. "Such incidents," HT said in the press release "has to be answered by sharp swords of Muslim united armies under a true Muslim leader (Imam/K), not by few words of condemnations, rallies and demonstrations or submissions of list of demands to the UN's or Human Rights, which are the protector of these crusaders, not us."
Its position on nonviolence is complicated by its admission that "jihad" is compulsory for Muslims in an Islamic country to fight their perceived enemies. According to the group's Web site, "the members of Hizb ut-Tahrir in that country are a part of the Muslims and it is obligatory upon them as it is upon other Muslims, in their capacity as Muslims, to fight the enemy and repel them." HT's statements in response to the Israeli naval operation to stop a flotilla of ships en route to Gaza, which called on Muslim armies to "fight the Jews" and "blow 'Israel' off the map," further demonstrate the group's acceptance of violence.
The radicalization of HT members who adhere to the group's extremist ideology can also lead to violent acts. In 2007, German police arrested three men on suspicion of plotting to bomb military and civilian airports, restaurants and nightclubs. Two of the men were allegedly Uzbek members of the HT splinter cell Islamic Jihad Union (IJU), which carried out a terrorist attack against the American and Israeli embassies in Uzbekistan in July 2004.
Two British HT members were also allegedly involved in terrorist activities. One of the men was among those responsible for the 2003 suicide bombing at Mike's Place, a bar in Tel Aviv. Another HT member was suspected of joining Al Qaeda and plotting to attack several New York-Based financial targets. He was arrested in 2004 by British authorities.
Some observers have suggested that Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, the admitted mastermind of the September 11 terrorist attacks, and Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, Al Qaeda in Iraq's former leader, were also members of HT.
In 2003, Germany banned HT for allegedly spreading anti-Semitic propaganda. Russia declared the group a terrorist organization that same year after reportedly detecting links between HT and Chechen terrorists. The group had previously been banned in Russia in 1999 for being a criminal organization. HT has similarly been banned in several Arab and Central Asian countries as well.
Several other European countries, including the United Kingdom, have considered banning HT. The British government sought to ban the group after allegations that it was linked to the London bombings in July 2005.
HT also has a growing presence in the West Bank, which stands in opposition to the Israeli-Palestinian peace process and rejects the legitimacy of both the Palestinian Authority and Hamas. In 2007, the group held a conference in Ramallah that reportedly drew approximately 20,000 supporters. That same year, HT marched through Ramallah in opposition to the "Zionist provocation" against the Al Aqsa mosque. Palestinian officials banned HT from holding a July 2009 rally opposing both Fatah and Hamas and the concept of a modern nation-state.