Letter – Re: Young Muslims and Extremism
5th September 2005
Sir John Gieve CB
50 Queen Anne's Gate
Re: Young Muslims and Extremism
Following the publication of the above report by the Sunday Times, we are also concerned with preventing young Muslims from becoming attracted to terrorist activity and also have concerns for community cohesion, as outlined in our response to the "Strength in Diversity" consultation.
We would like to address some of the inaccuracies related to our organisation that are contained within the report. We have quoted the relevant sections of the text of the report in bold and our comments are placed underneath each quote.
Dr Imran Waheed
Media Representative of Hizb ut-Tahrir Britain
"There have been public meetings advocating extremist positions, some quite well attended. For example, Hizb-ut-Tahrir organised a conference entitled `British or Muslim' conference, in September estimated to have attracted 10,000 (although some of these will have gone expecting an open debate rather than what turned out to be a one sided advocacy of extremism)."
Our conference in September 2003 was well attended by a wide cross section of the Muslim community, young and old, male and female. The majority of those attending were Muslim families, evidenced by the three cr'ches in operation on the day. The conference outlined the positive contribution to wider society that could be made by Muslims adhering to Islamic values. It was not a "one sided advocacy of extremism"; a productive roundtable discussion between non-Muslim and Muslim thinkers was one of the features of the event. As a general point, we are an open organisation who welcomes discussion, debate and criticism.
"Most of the structured extremist organisations, e.g. Hizb-ut-Tahrir, will not directly advocate violence. Indeed membership or sympathy with such an organisation does not in any way pre-suppose a move towards terrorism. What it may indicate is the possibility of a few of its members being open to gradual consideration of far more extremist doctrine (e.g. these `non-violent' extremist organisations allow members or even sympathisers to contemplate opening `Pandora's box'). However those with very extremist or even terrorist tendencies may also be put off by these extremist organisations as they may view their activities as `pointless pontification and debate'. They may demand more direct action and less talk and hence may not become involved with them."
The term ?extremist?, frequently used in the public discourse about religion and terrorism, has no tangible legal meaning or definition and is thus unhelpful and emotive. To equate 'extremism' with the aspirations of Muslims for Shariah laws in the Muslim world or the desire to see unification towards a Caliphate in the Muslim lands is inaccurate and disingenuous. It indicates ignorance of what the Shariah is and what a Caliphate is and may alienate and victimise the Muslim community unnecessarily.
We reject the charge made by some that Hizb ut-Tahrir though non-violent itself, indirectly incites others to commit violent acts or opens up the possibility that a few of our members may become open to gradual consideration of far more extremist doctrine. This pre-supposes that in its opposition to western foreign policy, the party does not provide a detailed methodology to channel the inevitable anger and frustration that is generated: it quite plainly does.
For those looking for a 'practical' goal or purpose to work towards in order to solve the perceived problems of the Ummah, extremist organisations/ideologies offer panaceas to all the problems of the Muslims. (e.g. the panacea offered by organisations such as Hizb-ut-Tahrir and Al Muhajiroon is reestablishment of the `Khilafah'- the Caliphate.)
We do not view the re-establishment of the Caliphate as a panacea for all the problems of Muslims. We do not envision creating an angelic or utopian society, but do believe that the return of the Caliphate in the Muslim world will help bring stability after over a century of turmoil.
In the Muslim world our political aim is the re-establishment of the Islamic Caliphate. Our vision of the Islamic Caliphate is as an independent state having an elected and accountable ruler, an independent judiciary, political parties, the rule of law and equal rights for minority groups. Citizens of the Caliphate have every right to be involved in politics and accounting the ruler in which the role of the ruler (Khalif) is to be a servant of the masses governing them with justice.
"Despite these concerns, it is likely based on the 2001/02 surveys that only a minority of British Muslims hold extremist views, though the size of the minority varies according to what particular views one is measuring); and probably only a minority of those holding such views take any active part in extremist organisations like Hizb-ut-Tahrir and Al Muhajiroon."
The overwhelming majority of the Muslim community are law abiding and their endeavours to create a more just society have been entirely peaceful. Despite widespread opposition to the war in Afghanistan and Iraq, the vast majority of the Muslim community has expressed this through non-violent political work.
We also work to direct the sentiments of Muslims about events in the Muslim world into non-violent politics – this channels the anger and frustration with events in the Muslim world into positive political work. Our activities including public protests, petitions, conferences, seminars and roundtable discussions have been attended by thousands of people.
Ideology and Propagation of Extremist Organisations
Hizb-ut-Tahrir (HT) and Al Muhajiroon are probably the two extremist organisations with the highest profile in Britain. They are therefore a good case study as an example of some of the types of beliefs held by extremist organisations."
Hizb ut-Tahrir has no relationship whatsoever with Al Muhajiroon, by word or deed. It is therefore not accurate to consistently refer to us together. It would be much more accurate to study our organisation, its aims and its methodology as a distinct entity.
"Both organisations come from the same origins (i.e. Al Muhajiroon is a breakaway organisation from HT). The movement itself was founded by a Palestinian jurist by the name of Tagi-ad-din Nabhani. The British counterpart was set-up by the Omar Bakri Muhammad."
Hizb ut-Tahrir was established in 1953 as a non-violent Islamic political party with the objective of establishing Islam in state and society in the Muslim world underpinned by the support of the masses. We have stated on many occasions that Omar Bakri Muhammad was not the founder of Hizb ut-Tahrir in Britain. He was expelled from Hizb ut-Tahrir in 1996 and has had no relationship whatsoever with the party for over 9 years. It is not strictly correct to describe Al Muhajiroon as a breakaway organisation from Hizb ut-Tahrir ? we say this as Omar Bakri was expelled from the party and went on to establish his own organisation, with its own distinct aims and methodology.
"Both organisations believe in a 3-stage methodology of reviving the Caliphate, the first two stages being the most important.
Stage One: `Culturing' people in their way of thinking, and recruiting members to propagate the revival of the Caliphate as the way to salvation'.
Stage Two: "Publicly" opposing the non-Muslims and those Muslims who have `strayed' from the true path of Islam.
HT consider themselves to be at stage one, whilst Al Muhajiroon consider themselves to be at stage two."
This description of Hizb ut-Tahrir's methodology is inaccurate and the issue is further confused by discussing two different groups, which do not share the same methodology, in the same breath.
It is important to point out, as the report does not make it clear, that although our primary political aim is the re-establishment of the Caliphate, we are not working to establish such a state in the UK.
Our members across the globe strive for the intellectual elevation of society, and one of our fundamental concepts is the adherence to the Islamic legislative texts in all areas of life. It was impossible to replace the tyrannical rulers in our countries when the society understood that the rituals of worship had to be carried out according to the Islamic texts but failed to grasp the importance of adhering to these same texts in political and economic matters. It would also make nonsense of our work to clarify to the society the details of Islam's political system, while ignoring its own method for gaining political power. We defined this method in great detail, deriving its legitimacy from the peaceful efforts of the Prophet Mohammad (peace and blessings be upon him) to spread his message to all sectors of society and to pursue the acquisition of support and authority from the influential leaders of his day.
Our members have never resorted to armed struggle or violence as a way of bringing about political change. Resilience in the face of intense oppression comes from the passionate belief of our members that societies do not change through coercion or violence, but through intellectual advancement, debate and dialogue.
"A typical example of each of their activities is:
a.) Hizb-ut-Tahrir- A conference on whether Muslims could be British (the conclusion was that they couldn't)"
Our conference in September 2003 entitled "British or Muslim?" was intended to generate discussion about the issues of identity, integration and community cohesion. The conclusion of the conference was not as simple as "that they couldn't" and this belittles the discussions that took place at the conference and in the days that followed. We have detailed our view about these issues in our submission to the Strength in Diversity consultation. We have outlined how we believe Muslims can contribute positively to society while preserving their Islamic identity.
The report fails to make mention of our many other activities ? e.g. our demonstrations to express opposition to the French ban on the headscarf, panel discussions with non-Muslim politicians, thinkers and personalities, local community initiatives to combat drugs and crime, homework clubs to improve educational attainment, seminars discussing forced marriages and honour killings, and so on and so forth.
"If it is taken that both organisations are part of the same ideology, the statements below (made at the Al-Muhajiroon conference) are an indication of their beliefs and methodology."
We do not accept the assumption that "both organisations are part of the same ideology". Hizb ut-Tahrir has no association by word or deed with any other organisation, Islamic or non-Islamic. It is unjust to evaluate our beliefs and methodology on the basis of an Al-Muhajiroon conference.
It follows on then that the ten points that were made at the Al-Muhajiroon conference cannot be assumed to be the position of Hizb ut-Tahrir. As an example, in relation to point 9, "To dignify and honour the Magnificent 19, who sacrificed their lives for Allah on 9/11", Hizb ut-Tahrir has an entirely different perspective on the attacks of 9/11. We expressed our denunciation of the attacks of 9/11 with an official party leaflet [18/9/01] stating "The rules of this Message forbid any aggression against civilian non-combatants. They forbid killing of children, the elderly and non-combatant women even in the battlefield. They forbid the hijacking of civilian airplanes carrying innocent civilians and forbid the destruction of homes and offices which contain innocent civilians. All of these actions are types of aggression which Islam forbids and Muslims should not undertake such actions."