Hizb ut Tahrir (HuT), a transnational revolutionary movement which has flourished in the West and which is seeking to create an Islamist super-state. Founded in Jerusalem in 1953 the group aims to unite all Muslims under one ruler, the Caliph, and impose a rigid version of Shariah law throughout the world, is turning its attention to the United States where it hopes to win support from American Muslims.
The group has been planning to hold a conference in Chicago on July 11 at the Marriot Oat Brook Hotel. It will focus on the "emerging world order: how the Khilafah [Caliphate] will shape the world" and is part of a "global campaign for Khilafah." Attendees are told to "join the revival."
HuT is banned across the Middle East, in parts of Central and South East Asia, and in Germany as well -- in part because of its revolutionary nature, which seeks to seize power by inciting the armies of Muslim countries to rebel. But many Western governments are also concerned by the extreme ideology HuT promotes.
In the United Kingdom, throughout the 1990s, groups like HuT were allowed to grow unchecked, causing untold damage that will take years to reverse. Following the 7/7 terrorist attacks in 2005, Prime Minister Tony Blair vowed to ban the group, but later backtracked after failing to find a sufficient legal basis for doing so. This illustrates, vividly, the problem at hand: The challenge posed by groups like HuT is not their message (which is easily overcome), but their methods.
By steering clear of actual involvement in terrorism, HuT is able to present itself as an intellectual revivalist movement, testing the limits of liberal societies such as Britain and America, which tolerate – and indeed cherish – dissent of all kinds. Yet they are clearly more than a talking shop. HuT creates the moral justification for terrorism by serving as a "political wing" for the global jihad movement, thereby supporting it with intellectual arguments if nothing else.
Although the group has never been directly implicated in acts of terrorism, its fingerprints have frequently turned up on the periphery of actual plots, leading commentators such as Zeyno Baran to regard it as a "conveyor belt" for terrorism.
Two of al-Qaeda's most senior members, for example, Abu Musab al-Zarqawi and Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, are alleged to have been one-time associates of the group. In Britain, HuT has been blamed for radicalizing Britain's first suicide bomber, Omar Sharif, who killed three diners in a Tel Aviv restaurant. Similarly, one of the attackers in the abortive terrorist attack on Glasgow airport in 2007, Kafeel Ahmed, was a flatmate of a HuT member in Cambridge.
The fact that the group has inspired terrorism should come as no surprise. Article 56 of HuT's draft constitution for its proposed Islamic state states: "Every male Muslim, fifteen years and over, is obliged to undergo military training in readiness for jihad."
The group's most extreme rhetoric is reserved for Jews. A leaflet issued by the group in 2001 stated: "In origin, no one likes the Jews except the Jews. Even they themselves rarely like each other." Another leaflet stated: "The Jews are a people of slander. They are a treacherous people who violate oaths and covenants….Allah forbids you to befriend them."
More recently, following the storming by Israelis of the of the Turkish boat, the Mavi Marmara, the HuT chapter in Bangladesh issued a press release declaring: "O Muslim Armies! Teach the Jews a lesson after which they will need no further lessons. March forth to fight them, eradicate their entity and purify the earth of their filth."
American members are expressing similar sentiments. Maajid Eshaaq, a Chicago resident, is heavily promoting HuT's upcoming conference on social networking sites such as Facebook, on which he has created a group called: "Only a Muslim Army Can Solve Israeli Menace." Its description states:
Salauddin Ayyubi set an example for us when he liberated Palestine from the crusaders. We believe this menace can only be solved by a sincere Muslim army...We call the Muslim rulers, dictators and kings to fear Allah and stop helping the kuffar [infidel]] and stop lying to the Muslims and stop shedding fake tears. Bring back the Islamic Khilafah and the Islamic system and its armies to take care of this disease called Israel.
HuT's broader political agenda is deeply reactionary and hostile, promoting ideas of confrontation and separation among Muslims in the West. Muslims in America, for example, will be told that participating in the democratic process is forbidden, that secularism and democracy are incompatible with Islam, and that American Muslims should isolate themselves from civil society. One of its publications states "The basis of the democratic system is that people possess the right of sovereignty, choice and implementation. ... it is a Kufr [infidel's] system because it is laid down by man and it is not from the Shari'ah Laws".
Working out how to draw a line against that kind of activity while preserving civil liberties remains a problem that many politicians in Britain have been unable to resolve. Now, it would seem, US policy makers will likely be facing the same swamp.