The Sunday Times
1 Pennington Street
16th October 2005
Re: " 'Stealth' Islamists recruit students"
Dear John Witherow,
I write to complain about today's article entitled 'Stealth' Islamists recruit students in the Sunday Times.
The article makes several serious and unfounded allegations about our organisation.
The main sections of the article that concern us are:
- An undercover Sunday Times investigation has established that the party, Hizb ut-Tahrir, has been recruiting under the name Stop Islamophobia at University College London (UCL), the School of African and Oriental Studies, Luton University and other institutions.
- Professor Anthony Glees report said that Hizb ut-Tahrir, which recruited openly on campuses until earlier this year, "has issued a number of anti-semitic statements. Furthermore, it is anti-Hindu (because of the war in Kashmir), anti-Sikh, homophobic, anti-feminist and resentful of the West's influence on Islam."
- Any evidence of Hizb ut-Tahrir's continuing recruitment on university campuses is likely to cause concern that students may be lured towards violent extremism.
- Thaqib Razaq, from Walthamstow, northeast London, described how he had asked a Hizb ut-Tahrir 'sheikh', a senior member, what would happen if he became a suicide bomber. He said the reply was: "I can strap a bomb to myself and kill as many people as I can. I'm going to die shahid (martyr) and go to jannah (heaven)."
As for the first point, Hizb ut-Tahrir is not "recruiting under the name Stop Islamophobia " as the article sensationally alleges. Stop Islamophobia is a university based campaign which Hizb ut-Tahrir supports, alongside other Muslim groups and personalities. Some of its leaflets have over 150 signatories of which Hizb ut-Tahrir is but one. Hizb ut-Tahrir is an open organisation and our non-violent political work is carried out openly. Our debates, demonstrations and conferences (attended by 10,000 in 2003) are widely publicised and open to all. In recent times members of Hizb ut-Tahrir have had several lively debates with leading intellectuals, politicians and journalists in the UK such as Tim Sebastian, Adam Boulton, David Goodhart, AC Grayling, Michael Gove, Roger Mosey, Clive Crook, Edwina Currie, Peter Hitchens, Norman Lamont and many others. Indeed, the Sunday Times reporter attended our demonstration outside the Uzbek embassy so we can hardly be described as 'Stealth Islamists'.
It is ironic that Ali Hussain's article actually contributes to stoking up fear of Islam and Muslims, the very thing the Stop Islamophobia campaign is trying to combat.
As for the second point, the writer sites allegations from Professor Glees's report accusing Hizb ut-Tahrir of "issuing a number of anti-semitic statements. Furthermore, it is anti-Hindu (because of the war in Kashmir), anti-Sikh, homophobic, anti-feminist and resentful of the West's influence on Islam." We reject these allegations.
Like the governments infamous dodgy dossier, Professor Glees's report is often referred to as the 'dodgy report' because of its many inaccuracies and poor research. A Swansea University spokeswoman said: "If the report's authors had been more thorough with their research, they would be familiar with numerous articles and publications referring to Ramzi Yousef. The report's authors did not approach any member of the university for information or comment. Had they done so, perhaps their report would not have been so misleading and flawed." Also, regarding this report, NUS National President Kat Fletcher said: "NUS fears that the reports' unsubstantiated claims have the potential to endanger Muslim students by inflaming a climate of racism, fear and hostility, and place a cloud over perfectly legitimate student Islamic societies." The report amounts to a concoction of allegations and heresay and has only contributed to Islamophobia and witch hunts against Muslim students on Campuses.
Islam teaches us to respect other people's beliefs and cultures and hence we envisage a Caliphate State where the rights of Jews, Christians, Hindus, Sikhs and others will be protected. We look forward to living and working side by side with Jews and others, who do not share our specific beliefs, under a stable progressive polity as was the case for hundreds of years prior to the untimely demise of the Caliphate at the beginning of the last century.
As for the third point, we reject the charge that that Hizb ut-Tahrir's work lures others "towards violent extremism". It is well known that Hizb ut-Tahrir has a 50 year plus history of non-violent intellectual and political work. Our members in the Muslim world have been silenced, imprisoned, tortured and even killed for their beliefs. Throughout all of this and up until the current 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. We reject the charge made by some that the party though non-violent itself, incites others to commit violent acts or radicalises Muslims "towards violent extremism ". 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. The UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office Minister Bill Rammell said, "We have yet to see convincing evidence that Hizb ut-Tahrir as an organisation advocates violence or terrorism."[Hansard 19/4/04]
While some neo-conservative right wing think tanks such as the US based Heritage Foundation or Nixon Centre have propagated such claims, they have not gained wide currency amongst those with knowledge of Hizb ut-Tahrir and its methodology. Indeed an article in the FT on 8th September 2005 said, "One security official believes there is no evidence that the group, which says it is non-violent, has played a role in the radicalisation of any known terrorist."
As for the fourth point, contrary to what is stated in the article, Thaqib Razaq is not a member of Hizb ut-Tahrir and his views are not representative of the party. Furthermore, we are on record as having stated that Islam forbids the killing of innocent civilians – we have expressed our denunciation of the London bombings of 7th July 2005. We have also expressed our denunciation of the attacks of September 11th 2001.
Hizb ut-Tahrir is a political movement and contrary to the picture the writer attempts to paint, we do not have a 'sheikh' sitting in Walthamstow issuing edicts.
In conclusion, this article has made many serious and unfounded allegations about our organisation. Despite several conversations with the writer, he failed to put some of these to us thus denying us the opportunity to clear them up.
At a time when there is growing misunderstanding and hysteria surrounding Islam and Muslims, journalists owe it to their readers to get their stories right so as not to contribute to the stoking up of misunderstanding between communities.
Dr Imran Waheed
Media Representative of Hizb ut-Tahrir Britain