Hizb ut-Tahrir (HT) is an international pan-Islamic organisation whose primary aim is to unite all Muslim countries into a single Islamic state, or Caliphate, under strict Islamic Law. The notion of the Caliphate dates back to the seventh century.
Originally founded in 1953 in Jerusalem by Taqiuddin an-Nabhani, a Palestinian court clerk, the organisation has become truly global in its reach. Currently under the global leadership of Ata Abu Rashta, HT has a membership possibly as high as one million people across 40 countries around the globe. Its organizational structure marks the group out, as unlike groups such as Al-Qaeda that operate loosely on a franchise model, HT is rigorously hierarchical and run centrally from the Middle East.
Originally focusing its efforts in the Arab world, Hizb ut-Tahrir did not become active in Britain until 1986. Syrian born Omar Bakri Muhammad, formerly a member of the Muslim Brotherhood, founded the British group and nurtured it from its tiny beginnings into one of Britain’s most active and sizeable Islamic organisations with an estimated membership of around 8,000. Bakri Muhammad led the organisation for ten years before splitting away in 1996 to form the far more extreme Al-Muhajiroun with Anjem Choudary.
HT UK is currently led by Dr Abdul Wahid.
The core international aim of HT is the re-creation of a unified and centrally administered Islamic state ruled under strict Islamic law. However, unlike proscribed Islamist groups such as Al-Muhajiroun, Hizb claim to restrict their desire to create a Caliphate to existing Muslim countries only. In the UK and the West it claims that it is focused solely on “building the case for Political Islam and defending the Ummah and Islam.”
While they remain legal in Britain and most of Europe, they are banned in Russia and widely proscribed across the Middle East and South Asia and Central Asia. Their legality in Britain has remained an issue of contention. Following the London bombings in 2005, Tony Blair announced his intention to ban the group but backtracked after warnings that such an action might drive them underground. Despite a general consensus regarding the group’s extreme nature, several reviews of the group have failed to provide sufficient evidence to legally justify an outright ban.
David Cameron also supported a ban whilst in opposition.
While the organisation is explicitly committed to non-violent methods, they have been marred by continual criticism over the group’s extremism; and while it does not engage in terrorist acts itself, it has been accused of being a “conveyor belt for terrorists.”
In the past it has supported violent groups such as Islamic Jihad, Hamas and Jama’ah Islamiyyah.
The organisation is more outwardly moderate in the UK in more recent years; however, on the eve of the first Gulf War Bakri Muhammad called for Muslims to assassinate John Major, for which he was arrested. In the 1980s and 1990s they also published leaflets calling for Jews to be killed.
Many believe HT to be a college of ideological indoctrination that, while abstaining from terrorism itself, creates fertile recruits for more extreme organisations. For example, in 2003, while searching the houses of Omar Khan Sharif and Asif Mohammed Hanif, following their failed attempt to blow up a bar in Tel Aviv, the police found HT literature.
Hizb ut-Tahrir: Beliefs
Hizb ut-Tahrirs’ particularistic interpretation of Islamic Law results in numerous extreme and illiberal positions laid out in their draft constitution. Their views are highly misogynist, and they argue that “the primary role of a woman is that of a mother and wife,” and they are not allowed to “take control of ruling” which bars women from becoming the Khaleefah or a judge. They also demand the segregation and the covering up of women.
They call for homosexuality to be made illegal and strongly oppose same sex marriage and are also outspoken opponents of Western style democracy and instead favor a single elected Khaleefah with suffrage being restricted to Muslims only.
In addition, much of their rhetoric crosses the line from anti-Zionism and enters the realm of open antisemitism. As well as calling for the destruction of Israel they have openly stated, “In origin, no one likes the Jews except the Jews. [...] The American people do not like the Jews nor do the Europeans, because the Jews by their very nature do not like anyone else.”
The National Union of Students (NUS) passed motions in 2004 and 2005 explicitly censuring HT. In 2004, NUS Conference passed a motion applying its No Platform Policy to HT, Al-Muhajiroun and others. In 2006, NUS Conference held a debate over a proposed motion to remove HT from the “No Platform Policy,” but it did not pass.
More recently Taji Mustafa, Chief Media Representative of HT UK, has controversially claimed that the chief cause of on street grooming is “the liberal values of the society that we live in,” and that “People need to question the liberal values which have led us to where we are.”
HT tread the line very finely, and despite the government feeling unable to proscribe the group, it is clear that their often controversial rhetoric makes them an extremist organisation.
Omar Bakri Muhammad: (Born- Syria 1958) Founded the UK branch of Hizb ut Tahrir in 1986 and remained leader until 1996. He was formally a member of the Muslim Brotherhood and left HT to form Al-Muhajiroun with Anjem Choudary. He has been the mentor of many of Britain’s most extreme Islamists. He has become more openly extreme since leaving HT praising 9/11 as ‘magnificent’ and is now banned from entering the UK following a decision by Charles Clarke.
Ata Abu Rashta: (Born- 1943 in Mandate Palestine) Current global leader of HT taking control in April 2003. He joined HT in the mid-1950s and worked closely with the founding members. He worked primarily in Jordan and has been detained numerous times by the Jordanian government.
Taqiuddin al-Nabhani: (Born 1909 Haifa- Died 1977 Beirut) Originally founded Hizb ut Tahrir in Jerusalem in 1953 and remained its global leader until his death in 1977.
Dr Abdul Wahid: Chairman of UK Executive of Hizb ut Tahrir Britain.
Taji Mustafa: Chief media representative and member of the UK Executive Committee. He is an IT professional with a degree from the University of North London. He recently stirred up controversy while addressing a HT conference in Australia after being called a “hate preacher” amid calls for him to be denied a visa.
Dr Imran Waheed: Chief media advisor for HT UK. He also works as a psychiatrist at Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Birmingham.
Sajjad Khan: Chief political advisor of HT UK and editor of the New Civilisation Magazine.