UK bans Hizb ut-Tahrir as terrorist group

By
Murtaza Ali Shah
|
Supporters of Hizb ut-Tahrir demonstrate in Ramallah, July 7, 2012. —Issam Rimawi/Flash90
Supporters of Hizb ut-Tahrir demonstrate in Ramallah, July 7, 2012. —Issam Rimawi/Flash90

LONDON: Hizb ut-Tahrir will be banned from organising in the UK after claims by the British government that the group is antisemitic and promotes hatred of Jews.

James Cleverly, the home secretary has announced that the group, which is already banned in countries including Pakistan, Germany, and Indonesia, will no longer be allowed to recruit or hold protests and meetings across the UK.

If agreed by parliament, a draft order that was laid on Monday will come into force on 19 January. This means that belonging to, inviting support for, and displaying articles in a public place in a way that arouses suspicion of membership or support for the group will be a criminal offence.

Hizb ut-Tahrir was banned in Pakistan under Pervez Musharraf’s government when the group called for his overthrow and campaigned against him in the UK, including trying to recruit from within the military. 

In the UK, Hizb ut-Tahrir has thousands of followers from the middle class. Its current leader is British-Pakistani Dr Wahid Asif Shaida who has been practising in West London as a family doctor for 25 years.

James Cleverly, the home secretary, said: “Hizb ut-Tahrir is an antisemitic organisation that actively promotes and encourages terrorism, including praising and celebrating the appalling 7 October attacks. Proscribing this terrorist group will ensure that anyone who belongs to and invites support for them will face consequences. It will curb Hizb ut-Tahrir’s ability to operate as it currently does.”

Certain prescription offences can be punishable by up to 14 years in prison, which can be handed down by a court alongside, or in place of, a fine.

Since the October 7 attacks by Hamas and the subsequent military response by Israel, Hizb ut-Tahrir has not condemned Hamas, a group already proscribed in the UK, rather hailing the attacks on Israeli citizens by saying “if this can be done by a resistance group, imagine what a unified response from the Muslim world could achieve”. It has called on Muslim countries to “get your armies and go and remove the Zionist occupiers”.

Dr Wahid has said the HT is not “extremist”, saying the word was “pejorative” and did not have an agreed meaning. He added: “For reasons of professional probity I keep a very clear line between my professional and political life.”

With headquarters in Lebanon, the group operates in at least 32 countries including the US, Canada, and Australia, with a “long-term goal of establishing a caliphate ruled under Islamic law”, the Home Office said.

The group has denied it was antisemitic, saying: “We do not support the Hamas group, but support the people of Palestine. We do not encourage people to do similar actions but instead want a political change so that the resources of Muslim countries are used to liberate and rescue the beleaguered people of Palestine. To say that Palestinians should be free of this brutal occupation is not a divisive statement.”

In 2003, some military officers were arrested in Pakistan for plotting a coup against Musharraf. HT leaders at that time in the later years told this reporter that Pakistan was their target number one because it was a nuclear country. HT leaders had also confirmed that some of the arrested officers were recruited while they were training at Britain’s prestigious Sandhurst military academy.

In October 2009, the arrest of around 35 activists of HT in the federal capital from a posh locality sent shock waves across Pakistan for the sheer fact that those arrested were no madrassah-educated, stick-wielding, Osama-loving and fire-spitting rabble-rousers. 

Almost all detained activists are middle-class, university graduates and belong to prestigious professions, including one linked to Pakistan’s atomic agency and one working for the USAID. 

The rest were, among others, computer engineers, educational institution heads, businessmen, telecom engineers, and students of different institutions, environment scientists.

After Pervez Musharraf banned HT in Pakistan, following the arrests of the military officers, it has resorted to operating more secretly and through fake fronts and names.

In June 2011, five Pakistan army officers were arrested for having links to Hizb-ul-Tahrir (HT) - the Islamic Liberation part.

During Pervez Musharraf’s visit to the UK in September 2004, the party launched the “Stop Busharraf” campaign to take Pakistan out of “Musharraf’s continued subservience to the Bush regime” and held massive demonstrations outside his appearance venues. 

Musharraf was so angry at the near-ambushes he met from HT members that he publicly rebuked the British government for not doing anything about the HT extremists at home but lecturing Pakistan on how to deal with religious extremists.

HT, active in over 40 countries, has more than 2 million members worldwide, with Indonesia and Malaysia taking the lead and Pakistan ranking amongst the top 5 countries providing the main workforce for the party. The group carries out hardly any activities in Pakistan after the ban but it’s believed to have silent support groups.

The group is known for recruiting from educational establishments and it has been so successful in its aim that it has today come to be associated with the middle-class, university graduates, and prestigious professionals, who form its ranks.

In Britain, most of HT’s activists are of Pakistani, Bangladeshi, Indian, African and Arab heritage.

Banned in Pakistan and many other Islamic countries including in the USA and a few European countries, the group was considered the most influential and powerful in Britain but the London bombings changed a lot of things for the group. Since then the group has seen many high-profile defections; many of its professionals, most of them Pakistani-origin doctors, and engineers, have either joined other parties or gone apolitical.

The radical party was originally founded in 1953 in Jerusalem by Taqiuddin al-Nabhani to unite the Muslim countries under a Khilafah rule, ruled by HT’s medieval interpretation of Islamic law and caliphate. It was established in Britain about 30 years ago by a Palestinian ideologue Fuad Hussain, the HT leadership fell to Salafist preacher Omar Bakri Muhammad, the radical Arab cleric who fled from Britain after the 2005 terrorist attacks.