It was honestly difficult to know if it was worth commenting on this publication (A War of Keywords). However, the numerous references to Hizb ut-Tahrir shifted the balance in favour of making a comment.
We would summaries the document as:
A biased basis
+ A shallow understanding
+ A flawed study ………………
= A laughable set of conclusions.
The basis of the report is biased because the Centre for Religion and Geopolitics is a surrogate of the Tony Blair Faith Foundation – an organization established by a man who has tried to impose his beliefs, ideology and values system on Afghanistan and Iraq by force; who established policies to indoctrinate Muslims in the UK – and who still tries to influence governments and others about his perverse beliefs about Islam and Muslims. It is impossible to take a report about Islam seriously when produced by an organisation founded by a man who holidayed with the Mubaraks of Egypt, hugged the Gaddafis of Libya and who holds court with Nursultan Nazarbayev. But worse than that, the Blair doctrine on Islam is one that has cost lives and justified the most barbaric of acts (rendition, torture, gulags, war crimes) of the past twenty years. This prejudice explains why the underlying arguments are so shallow. (We have no idea as to whether one of the co-author’s former military background plays a part in the report’s bias, anymore than his sharing a name with the political ancestor of Tony Blair – those who destabilised the Middle East during World War One).
The understanding of the issue is shallow because it persists on defaulting to the unsubstantiated ‘conveyor belt’ theory (albeit with a small caveat) attempting to link non-violent political groups that advocate alternative political ideas to those produced in the west, with violent movements. The attempts to associate Hizb ut-Tahrir with ISIS is a prime example, by saying that ‘establishing an Islamic state and a caliphate are central ideas for both groups. In theory, the only difference between Hizb ut-Tahrir and ISIS are the means of achieving these ambitions, but both advocate for an Islamic state’.
Aside from the fact that every reading of Islam – whether Sufi, Salafi or otherwise (other than distorted secular interpretations) all acknowledge the role of Islam in government as in all areas of life, and the centrality of the Caliphate in Islam, for most people the difference between using political means and violent means to achieve a goal is no small difference.
Furthermore, any serious observer of these organisations easily understands there is a world of difference between the two organisations. Hizb ut-Tahrir is a political party that has been working by political and intellectual means for an Islamic system of government since 1953, whereas ISIS is an armed group who used the idea of the caliphate in its bid to outcompete rival militias in Syria. Hizb ut-Tahrir has for decades emphasised the importance of the rights of citizens in the Caliphate according to the Shari’ah – regardless of their religion and has criticised the treatment of minorities in Iraq and Syria by ISIS, the regime in Baghdad and the regime in Damascus.
To conflate ‘Hizb ut-Tahrir’s commentary on the Syrian conflict’ to the ‘worldview of ISIS’ should be so obviously wrong to any independent observer that it is generous to call it a ‘shallow’ argument, when ‘wilful misinformation’ might be a better description.
Hizb ut-Tahrir has criticised the Assad regime, regional and global powers and armed militias such as ISIS for their shedding of innocent blood in the region – whilst the other is a participant in that bloody conflict. One presents a vision of a caliphate to stablise the region – recognising the government has to rule by Islam but for all its citizens, regardless of religion or sect, while the other is an armed group that has no vision for a caliphate other than using the label.
The study is flawed because, like so many others, it defines the term ‘extremism’ to serve its pre-existing argument. In its glossary, the document uses the definition ‘the desire to impose a belief, ideology, or values system on others to the exclusion of all other views by indoctrination, force, or by seeking to control government’ – a definition so broad it surely encompasses every secular liberal person who tries to convince people of their believes or makes a bid for political office. Yet it is used in such a way that it implies ‘extremists’ are those Muslims who wish to convince others or implement systems they believe in.
Moreover, the idea that these self-selected ‘keywords’ carry some deep importance is more than a little funny. We would draw peoples’ attention to the table on page 47 that tries to categorise Islamic terminology in a meaningless way, which the authors clearly think is terribly clever. The net result is that this study is a sad waste of time and money that if taken seriously by anyone, will only serve to misguide public policy on Islam and Muslims even more.
As a result, the conclusions are laughable. The crux of the authors’ argument is that when people use search engines to look for these keywords, policy makers should ensure the rigging of search engines to promote ‘sponsor links’ carrying arguments written by the Foreign office to reinforce their counter-narrative.
Clearly, the author’s think that Hizb ut-Tahrir’s arguments that present a caliphate on the Prophetic model are not arguments that can be refuted without rigging the system in this way.
We are now more than 90 years since the demise of the last caliphate. In that time there have been many Foreign Office and State Department attempts to sponsor and present counter-arguments, alternative narratives, pseudo-Islamic rulings e.t.c., all to try to mislead Muslims from an objective reading of Islamic texts and an objective assessment of the world’s political situation. These attempts have repeatedly failed and will continue to fail. Indeed, it is not just that Muslims across the world are looking for Islamic solutions to their problems, many in the west are increasingly questioning the serial disasters of capitalism, the corruption of their political order and excesses of liberalism. It is our firm belief that any new attempts to rig the system, will do little to stem human beings in their quest to search for something different.