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A comparative analysis of anti-systemic political Islam: Hizb ut-Tahrir’s influence in different political settings (Britain, Turkey, Egypt and Uzbekistan)

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Journal of Muslim Minority Affairs
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The Varied Performance of Hizb ut-Tahrir: Success in Britain and
Uzbekistan and Stalemate in Egypt and Turkey
Ihsan Yilmaz
Online publication date: 22 December 2010
To cite this Article Yilmaz, Ihsan(2010) 'The Varied Performance of Hizb ut-Tahrir: Success in Britain and Uzbekistan and
Stalemate in Egypt and Turkey', Journal of Muslim Minority Affairs, 0: 0, 501 — 517
To link to this Article: DOI: 10.1080/13602004.2010.533448
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The Varied Performance of Hizb ut-Tahrir: Success
in Britain and Uzbekistan and Stalemate in Egypt
and Turkey
This paper studies the Muslim youth experience in Britain and Uzbekistan vis-a-
vis their vulnerability to extremist ideologies with a specific focus on the Hizb ut-
Tahrir (HT), contrasting these two cases with the Turkish and Egyptian cases,
which were resilient to HT. We endeavour to analyse why, while in an autocratic
country such as Egypt, the HT has had limited influence on the hearts and
minds of the Muslim youth, it has been more influential in a Western democracy,
Britain, where moderation of extremist ideologies through democratic learning
should normally take place as the political science literature suggests. From a com-
parative perspective involving four very different countries, the paper looks at the
issues of alienation, marginalisation, discrimination, socio-economic, political
and theological deprivation and the impact of the foreign policy on young
Muslim minds and their resiliency or vulnerability to movements such as HT.
The Hizb ut-Tahrir (HT) was founded in 1952 by a Palestinian named Taqi ud-Din
al-Nabhani (1909 1979) who had published a book entitled, The Treatise of the Arab
in 1950 promoting nationalist ideals. This work reflects the Movement’s top priority
of establishing the Islamic state in Arab territories and later in non-Arab Islamic terri-
tories. To achieve this goal, the HT was established.
He then published several books
and organized and addressed rallies throughout Jordan, Syria and Lebanon to
enhance his political profile. Al-Nabhani was convinced that Islam’s decline was due
to the submission of the ummah to greedy imperialist colonial powers. Unlike many of
his peers, who believed Islam’s shortcomings could be remedied through nationalist or
economic policy prescriptions, al-Nabhani asserted that Islam could only be revived if
it was restored as a comprehensive guide for daily life. Although hesitant to label most
of his Muslim contemporaries as kuffar (unbelievers), he believed that their lives were
dominated by a mixture of Islamic, Western, socialist, nationalist, partisan, regional
and sectarian thoughts and emotions, leaving them detached from true Islamic living.
Al-Nabhani was at first a member of the Muslim Brotherhood but found its ideology
too moderate and too accommodating of the West. He considered Western animosity to
Islam as a constant ever since the Crusades.
Al-Nabhani died in 1979 and was suc-
ceeded by Abu Yusuf Abdul Qadim Zallum, another Palestinian cleric, who also
taught at Al-Azhar University in Cairo, Egypt. In a book-length treatise, How the Khila-
fah Was Destroyed, he made a powerful case for the importance of cleansing Islam of
Western influences. Zallum died on April 26, 2003. He was succeeded by Ata Ibnu
Khaleel Abu Rashta, alias Abu Yasin, a Palestinian who is believed to have lived most
Journal of Muslim Minority Affairs, Vol. 30, No. 4, December 2010
ISSN 1360-2004 print/ISSN 1469-9591 online/10/040501-17 #2010 Institute of Muslim Minority Affairs
DOI: 10.1080/13602004.2010.533448
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recently in the West Bank. Under his leadership, HTactivities have become more aggres-
sive. HT’s global leadership is believed to be located in Jordan.
Today HT is active in
Egypt, Jordan, Syria, Lebanon, Yemen, Palestine and in several Gulf countries.
The movement’s philosophical methodology and linguistic foundations have Marxist-
Leninist undertones. HT is therefore most effective among people educated with a
left-wing background or among those who live in post-Soviet countries. HT’s main
threat in the West is its anti-integration message.
HT’s second effective region of operation is Central Asia, especially Uzbekistan, where
people are increasingly frustrated with political repression and miserable socioeconomic
conditions. HT has been successful in part due to the ideological vacuum following the
collapse of the Soviet Union; the population’s desire to learn about Islam after the end of
state atheism; a shortage of local imams, leading to the import of foreign ones; familiarity
with Marxist-Leninist propaganda styles; and above all, poor socioeconomic conditions.
HT is strongest in Uzbekistan where political repression and economic failures have
created a ripe environment for HT to succeed.
Placing sovereignty with the Caliph
and not with the people makes HT antidemocratic. This is a major difference with the
Muslim Brotherhood and Jamaat-i Islami, who are prepared to concede that while
ultimate sovereignty belongs to God, it can be exercised by true believers.
For over half a century HT has been engaged in the war of ideologies, but it came to
benefit greatly from the post-September 11 atmosphere of divisiveness. Harkening back
to the supposed glory of the Ottoman Caliphate, HT doctrine stipulates that the only
way to re-establish the kind of Islamic society promulgated by the Prophet Muhammad
is to liberate Muslims from the thoughts, systems and laws of kuffar (non-believers), by
replacing the Judeo-Christian dominated nation-state system with a borderless ummah.
HT members claim ultimately to want freedom and justice, rather than violence. Since it
is not a terrorist organization, it is much more appealing to the average Muslim.
In Western Europe, HT conveys a message of “justice” to Muslims alienated from main-
stream society, which it views as imperialistic and anti-Islamic. In Central Asia, HT
presents an Islamic alternative to the secularist repression of the region’s governments.
HT in Uzbekistan
It should be noted that aspiring for an Islamic identity is not always linked with real knowl-
edge of Islam as the Uzbek case shows: Although 92% of the Uzbeks consider themselves
as Muslim, almost half of them have either no religious education or very little knowledge
of Islam.
There was a strong demand for mosques, especially in Uzbekistan, where there
were only 89 mosques during the Soviet times. Within a year after independence, this
number had exploded to 5,000 mosques. Similarly, while there were 119 religious insti-
tutes in 1990, after about a decade, the number went up to over 2,000. But due to the
Soviet era repression, there were an insufficient number of native imams and Islamic scho-
lars to instruct people about their indigenous Islamic culture and traditions as well as
beliefs and practices. Central Asian Muslims had to rely on foreign imams and religious
texts to learn about their religion. Funded by petrodollars and inspired by a radical ideol-
ogy, outside Islamists filled the vacuum with their own radical religious interpretations.
They flooded the mosques and religious institutes and discredited those imams who prac-
ticed the traditional, Central Asian form of Islam. Most of the people did not see any
difference; they wanted to learn about Islam and accepted any group that declared it
was teaching their religion. The radicals were able to succeed as the rapid Islamization
of the region occurred without any oversight or regulation.
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The newly independent states of Central Asia provided new horizons for the expan-
sion of HT’s ideology. In a totalitarian society, where there is no political opposition,
HT will seek to occupy the vacuum.
HT material was first brought to Uzbekistan in
the late 1970s by Jordanians and Palestinians who were studying at the region’s higher
institutions. The second wave of HT expansion began in 1992 but took off in earnest
in 1995, when a Jordanian brought HT’s literature to the Ferghana Valley and dissemi-
nated it among the ethnic Uzbek population. While HT is still most active in the
Ferghana Valley, over the last decade it has successfully spread to the rest of Uzbekistan
and to Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Kazakhstan. The precise number of HT members in
Central Asia today is difficult to estimate. In general, like other Islamist movements, HT
has been less successful in recruiting nomadic peoples (Turkmen and Kazakhstani), who
traditionally have been less religious and was more successful among the more settled
Uzbekistani, Kyrgyzstani and Tajikistani peoples. It is therefore not surprising that as
of late 2004, HT is strongest in Uzbekistan, with population estimates ranging from
7,000 up to 60,000 followers.
The lack of satisfactory production and dissemination of Islamic knowledge paved the
way for the de facto monopolization of the Islamic normative sphere by mostly foreign
extremist and radical groups in Uzbekistan. Indigenous attempts such as the Islamist
organization Akramiya founded by Akrom Yo’ldoshev, have been seen as competitors
to the state’s hegemony and have been harshly repressed. If the regime becomes more
self-confident and stops harassing the non-violent and non-radical activist scholars
and believers, social, political and intellectual spaces will open up for genuine
Non-radical Islamic ulama and scholars and religious communities will
then be able to speak out more strongly and effectively against extremists’ views of
Islam. By organizing panel discussions, addressing Muslims in their mosques and in
public sphere using local media outlets, such leaders can significantly reduce the
growing popularity of extremist religious views. When Islam is not renewed with
newly created and implemented ijtihad by scholars, ulama, intellectuals and faith-
based movement leaders, the new generations will not be satisfied with the traditional
expressions of folk Islam or state’s official Islam and will look for foreign alternatives.
HT activists convey their message in simple terms: poverty and inequality can be
addressed once corrupt governments are replaced with the rule ofshariah. There is wide-
spread support for the criticism that HT levels against corruption, inequality and the
repression of devout Muslims. The call for social justice strikes a chord with hundreds
of thousands of people. The authorities’ inability to deal with HT is attributable to a
combination of factors. There is no political will to acknowledge the cause-and-effect
relationship between the failure of governments’ social policies, corruption and religious
repression and HT’s widening social appeal. There is also no real understanding of HT’s
sophisticated approach to winning hearts and minds, or of its ability to alter its modus
operandi to suit the prevailing political climate. Members are also proactive in getting
their message across by initiating contacts with local media and offering interviews
and information.
The emergence of extremism in the Central Asian region can be traced to a number of
causes including: (1) The ideological vacuum which existed in the region following the
collapse of the Soviet Union; (2) The fact that the Central Asian Muslim Board, which
had been formed during Soviet rule, did not react immediately to the changing situation;
even with time, its attempts to use new ideas were unsuccessful; the decline in collabor-
ation between religious boards in the newly independent states was a result of this failure;
(3) The replacement of the publicly popular clergy with self-declared Islamists and the
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resulting inaccurate interpretation of classical Islam’s basic tenets. (4) The extensive
dissemination of religious extremist publications by international groups seeking to
take advantage of the desire for knowledge of Islam among the population.
(5) It is
almost impossible to train imams for such a large number of mosques. Due to the short-
age of religious institutions in their countries, many young people went abroad to “insti-
tutes” with fundamentalist orientations. Graduates of such institutions then returned to
Central Asia and immediately began efforts to discredit and remove from mosques those
imams who practiced traditional forms of Islam. As a result, some mosques began to turn
into centres for extremist forces that now pose a threat to public security.
Perhaps the main reasons for the spread of radical religious movements in Central Asia
are a combination of factors involving the unstable economic situation; the high rate of
unemployment; and the extremely poor quality of life in the rural areas of our countr y.
This situation is also complicated by the fact that, in many regional mosques, Muslim
clergy themselves suffer from an insufficient theological education such that they
cannot effectively argue with members of radical organizations.
Moreover, with the
state’s legitimacy at a low point, state-sponsored mosques bore the burden of illegitimacy
as well. “Independent” Islamic organizations and religious movements competed to fill
the governmental and ideological vacuum that continued to spread through the region.
Limited popular knowledge of the traditional and classical orthodox Islam and post-
Soviet identity crises have benefited political, radical, extremist and unorthodox
Islamic movements. The situation in Uzbekistan resembles that of other Muslim
countries where founders or leaders of Islamism in Muslim countries, and especially
leaders of extreme or radical groups, have generally not been from ulama class.
Instead, they have been individuals who received secular education and renounced the
elitist and specific nature of theological education.
Thus, they do not have a strong fol-
lowing in local societies. Only a minority of the population finds the message of the rad-
icals and extremists appealing.
The lack of well trained imams, capable of refuting the
arguments of Islamists still continues to be one of the major difficulties in confronting
their message today.
It is impossible to resist radical Islam without appealing to
Islam itself, especially as long as it stays as the dominant dimension of identity in the
country. It is very important to oppose the radicalization of Islam from all directions;
Islamic and also Islamist alternatives for radical doctrine must play a very active role.
In comparison to the other Islamist groups, HT has offered the most comprehensive
and easy to understand answers to a myriad of complex questions resulting from the col-
lapse of the Soviet Union. It has provided a holistic answer to the socio-economic chal-
lenges facing Central Asians, such as extreme poverty, high unemployment, and
corruption among government officials, drug addiction, prostitution and lack of edu-
cation. Many people, especially the young, have joined HT to learn about Islam. In
Central Asia the movement puts an emphasis on recruiting jobless young people, aged
17 35, who come from traditional families. They were, however, fascinated with HT
slogans of justice and equality, public order and help to the poor. HT also serves more
immediate needs, filling the serious psychological holes of loneliness and aimlessness
left in the lives of many Central Asians. In particular, the young acutely feel the lack
of a social network, which is neatly provided by HT study circles. HT provides
Central Asians with connection to the global ummah. In Central Asia HT’s primary
focus is devoted to socioeconomic and human rights issues. In a region with limited
access to free press, HT’s discussion of everyday issues provides a much needed outlet
for news and opinion. HT continuously promotes a message of “justice” against what
many Central Asians view as their corrupt and repressive state structures. When HT
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draws attention to the illegitimacy of the existing political order, the group is making a
point that resonates with people of many different political perspectives, social classes,
ethnic groups and educational backgrounds.
HT has gradually presented itself as the only viable opposition to the present ruling
elites, given also that the secular opposition forces are extremely weak, where most of
the opposition is in exile or jail.
HT with ideas of social equality and justice finds
additional followers amongst victims of the authorities.
Uzbekistan’s political and
economic policies make a small number of young, often middle-income Uzbeks recep-
tive to the message of radical groups.
The HT has criticised attempts by other Islamic parties (e.g., The Islamic Revival
Party of Tajikistan or Turkey’s Justice and Development Party) to utilise the democratic
structures by holding ministerial posts in the existing governments, or participating in
the electoral and legislative processes, in order to achieve some influence in the
decision-making process. The HT has also criticised those Islamic organisations enga-
ging in non-political activities (e.g., welfare, education) for distracting the ummah
from the task of working to re-establish the Caliphate.
The Uzbek authorities have declared the HT illegal and imprisoned many of its
The estimates of membership and level of popularity of HT and other
Islamic groups are highly unreliable.
There are no reliable data on their membership
numbers. Some scholars argue that the HT threat is exaggerated by the Uzbek auth-
orities and to study HT generally means agreeing, most of the time, to use only biased
information from the authorities in the region.
President Islam Karimov of Uzbekistan realized in the late 1990s the severity of the
threat that his country was facing from radical Islamist ideology. As a product of the
Soviet era, he knew only repression as a way to deal with this threat. Since 9/11,
however, the Uzbekistani leadership has gradually begun to recognize the errors of its
overly repressive tactics, and has shifted towards other, less iron-fisted responses. The
government of Uzbekistan provides, for example, alternative, moderate religious instruc-
tion that is true to local traditions.
HT in Egypt
The liberalized autocracy in Egypt implies far more political freedoms than exist in Syria,
the former Iraq, the oil-rich Gulf countries, or even in Tunisia.
Authoritarian state and
strong Islamist groups, among other oppositional forces, co-exist in Egypt. The
communication channels between the Egyptian regime and the opposition are well-
established and they are never totally closed, even for the outlawed Muslim Brother-
Egyptian autocracy has survived by implementing a system of autocratic
power-sharing and state-managed pluralism that gave secular, Islamist, and ethnic
groups opportunity to express their views in the public sphere and even in elected,
state-controlled assemblies but that did not allow these voices to be translated into a
unified anti-systemic or even systemic but oppositional movement capable of threatening
the incumbents.
Egypt has a multi-party political system with several political parties,
periodic elections, opposition newspapers, popular criticism of the government and an
independent judiciary.
Islamist revival in Egypt began in the 1920s but spread rapidly after the early 1970s,
reaching its peak in the early 1990s. It consists of several groups from violent militants, to
non-violent and gradualist Islamic coalition, and from the individualist Sufi orders to the
state’s Al-Azhar, the Ministry of Awqaf and the Supreme Islamic Council.
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Islamism emerged as a reaction to the perceived causes of such a state of deprivation-
economic dependency, cultural sell-out, and national humiliation and in view of all the
failed ideologies and of the Western cultural, political, and economic onslaught, Islam,
was seen as the only doctrine that could bring about a change.
The Society of
Muslim Brotherhood (MB) emerged in 1928 when the secular-nationalist Wafdist
Party and the Royal family ruled the country. The MB was founded by Hassan
al-Banna in whose view the MB had to be organized as a “movement” rather than a
“party” as Al-Banna espoused a bottom-up approach and did not believe forceful trans-
formation of society by using state power.
The MB did not publicly denounce the State as an enemy to Islam and did not call for
a political revolt against it.
Several pro-violence individuals and groups split from the
MB that espoused a non-violent and bottom-up approach. The pro-violent militants
declare society to be jahiliyya (the state of ignorance before Islam) and consider the
state as infidel. The moderates and conservatives like the MB followers and members
avoid blanket condemnation while being critical of the state for not implementing
Islamic laws.
Moderate groups like the MB work within institutional channels such
as running candidates within the professional syndicates and in parliamentary
Conforming to its strategy of working within the official institutions, the
MB made use of the professional syndicates as a ground to expand its ranks and
develop a base among the white-collar workers.
Moreover, private charity and aid
organizations, usually connected to mosques, were established by the MB and also
other Islamist groups.
At the same time, the MB engaged in political mobilization.
As a result, the MB had a very powerful social base, with important ramifications in
the political sphere.
The MB did (could) not establish its own party and both because of the state repres-
sion and al-Banna’s advice it entered into electoral alliances with secular parties. The
MB guaranteed support from its religious social base, presenting voting as a religious
obligation and these secular opposition parties, in return, supplied the MB a legal
venue for participating in elections and running its own candidates. In the meantime,
the pro-violence groups directed their harshest criticisms to the MB for it participated
in the democratic process as a means to advance their political agenda.
Even its alli-
ances with the secular parties indeed show that the MB could work with the secular
groups and institutions. The democratic learning experience of electoral alliances broad-
ened the political basis of the movement, both by attracting more urbanite white collar
workers professionals and by providing experimenting oppor tunities with new
approaches towards social reform and democracy, as a result of physically and discur-
sively interacting with secular, leftist and liberal parties.
The younger generation MB
members’ involvement in syndicates, along with participation in municipal and national
elections, has been influential in the transformation and moderation of the MB. These
younger generations represent a secular-leaning and pluralist Islamic approach
towards politics and have been influential in changing the MB along these lines.
Thus, for instance, in 1995, the MB stated that Islam endorses political pluralism.
Even though the use of religious ideology in the discourse of the younger generations
is still central to mobilising grassroots, it plays only a minimal role in their discourse
in contrast to the elders of the MB. It seems that the younger generations of the MB,
while fighting for legality and trying to demonstrate their commitment to secular politics,
are likely to go further.
The transformation of Egyptian Islamism is attributable not
only to the regime’s often repressive counter-attacks through legislation or in the
streets, but also, similar to the Turkish case, it has to do with a decline in its popular
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support: the partial success of the Islamist MB movement in “Islamising” Egyptian
society allowed many people to believe that things could change for the better within
the context of the existing legal arrangements, without changing the constitutional
However, and despite over half a century of presence in the Middle East, HT has not
managed to build a large following among Arab Muslims. HT’s influence in Egypt is
diminished due to the dominance of the Muslim Brotherhood where the movement
has managed to survive and operate despite the difficulties.
HT, thus, could not be
influential in Egypt as it is in Uzbekistan. Similar to Uzbekistan, while the socio-
economic and political deprivation and authoritarianism variables exist also in Egypt,
there is no theological vacuum where the Muslim Brotherhood has been a solid opposi-
tion force with a more or less contemporary, competent and global discourse. In that
respect, the Turkish case shows also similarities with the Egyptian one.
HT in Turkey
In April 1967 Hizb ut-Tahrir had thrust itself into the Turkish limelight as a completely
new Islamic organization. HT sent an assortment of written works (“HT Presents”,
“The Constitution of the Islamic State”, “The Islamic Order” and “The Vital
Problem of Muslims”) to journalists, intellectuals and political personalities advocating,
inter alia, the restoration of the Islamic Caliphate. The group had also distributed leaflets
in different parts of the country. Security forces moved quickly and soon arrested several
Jordanian citizens studying in different Ankara universities as well as a group of Turkish
citizens. The leaders of HT were arrested in August 1967, and while HT activities
continued briefly, the group soon went quiet, and its name was forgotten in Turkey.
Yet despite the setbacks, HT continued to maintain a presence in the country. In
1985 and 1986, security forces captured 42 militants distributing booklets entitled,
“The Constitution of HT”, in Ankara, Istanbul and C¸ orum, and four HT members
received four-year prison sentences.
HT’s main agenda today is to convince the Turks that they should not try to enter the
European Union. They point to the “split personality” of Ataturk’s Turkey, stating that it
is ironic that the Ottoman Caliphate’s successor is trying to move away from the ummah
to be in a European Union that does not truly desire Turkish membership. For example,
two days after the EU Commission report stated that Turkey has made great reforms and
progress, HT’s October 8, 2003, leaflet once again urged Turkish Muslims not to try to
join the EU. They accused the Turkish prime minister of acting against the Muslims’
interest as the EU is against the rise of the Islamic civilization. HT also reminds
Turkish Muslims that the only way Turks would ever be accepted into the EU would
be by giving up their Islamic identity. They also criticize Turkey for having close relations
with the US and Israel.
Despite difficulties over the next decades, HT never gave up on Turkey. Faced with
this global campaign, the Turkish government has periodically engaged in operations
against HT members, and in May 2003 arrested Turkish HT’s leader Yilmaz Celik
and 93 others.
However, following the reform of the penal code, the courts no
longer arrest HT members, since they do not use violence. HT is not likely to be
re-establishing itself in Turkey. In contrast to the arrests in 1967, each of the dragnets
described above was ignored by the mainstream media. During the intervening years,
Turkish political life, Turkish believers and Turkish Islamic movements all experienced
major changes. HT, in contrast, is structurally resistant to change. It might use the latest
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technological advances, such as the Internet, or transfer its headquarters to the West, but
it still insists on advocating the Islamism of the Cold War and as a result, appears out of
fashion. The state was providing religious education through the Imam Hatip Schools
(IHL) and the High Institute of Islam. This constituted an important bulwark against
HT’s considerable transnational resources, preventing them from influencing or tainting
the education of the children of conservative and lower-class families.
Beginning in the 1980s, Islamic mobilization increased, but for several reasons, HT
did not experience a revival. Some Islamic communities entered into the media, and
in the 1990s they came to own newspapers, magazines, and radio and television stations.
The number of Imam Hatip High Schools reached 600, and the proportion of IHL
students became 10% of all high school students. As a result, a diverse and very effective
Islamic intelligentsia developed. The National View movement consolidated political
Islamism by establishing the Welfare Party, which appealed to non-conservative
masses through a socialist theme, thereby ceasing to be a marginal ideological party
and thus crowding out HT. In 1994 the Welfare Party won elections in major municipa-
lities such as Istanbul and Ankara, and 18 months later came out as the leading party in
the general elections. It would govern Turkey for one year. Throughout all these devel-
opments, HT became merely a spectator. It did not publish much and did not create its
own popular intellectuals, nor was it able to get involved in Turkish political life. Their
“Islamic alternative”, so innovative in the 1960s, had become obsolete in comparison to
the platforms of other Islamist groups. In short, HT failed in Turkey because Turkey
managed to integrate its Islamists into the democratic system. Moreover, Turkish Isla-
mists produce their own values, intellectuals, leaders and institutions, making it difficult
for outside groups to gain a foothold.
HT in Britain
In the 1970s, unable to establish a base in Turkey, HT began operating in Western
Europe, where it was able to take advantage of the political openness of the region. In
fact, as mentioned earlier, HT’s kiedat, or supreme legislative body, is located in
London and in the surrounding cities of Birmingham, Bradford and Sheffield, each of
which has large Muslim populations. Al-Khilafah Publications, HT’s print media
centre, which produces HT leaflets and publications explaining the party’s philosophy
and its position on world events, is also based in London. Leaflets are transmitted via
Internet to Kyrgyzstan, and forwarded to Uzbekistan and beyond for distribution.
Since Britain has not banned HT, the party has been able to operate in London with
few limitations. HT does not recruit people with less than a high school degree. It
holds conferences and demonstrations throughout the city and actively recruits in
London schools. HT uses different names and shows up at legitimate Islamic students’
meetings and takes over the agenda.
In Britain it appears to have gone through three distinct phases in its evolution. It came
to public notice with its call to hijack airplanes containing Israelis and Jews and then
embarked on a series of public confrontations, under the founding leadership of the
Syrian expatriate Omar al-Bakri Muhammad, and another Syrian expatriate, Farid
Kassim. These included well-publicized large-scale conferences at Wembley Conference
Centre and Trafalgar Square. It has sought to coerce moderate Muslim students into
joining and has intimidated Sikh, Hindu and Jewish students. Ultimately this brought
it publicity and considerable notoriety and eventually led to its banning by the National
Union of Students and by those universities where it was active. Omar al-Bakri was held
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in low esteem by other Islamist leaders as a consequence of his bragging that led in the
end to the dismissal of al-Bakri, who left to found al-Muhajiroun with Saudi expatriate
Muhammad al-Massari. HT thereafter embarked on a period of semi-clandestine
recruitment and growth. HT operates at two levels: clandestinely, recruiting mostly
among students, and to a small extent on the street (though not to the extent seen in
the past); and through its communications modes, such as its web-based journal Khilafah
and its communique
Now that it is barred from many mosques, its main vehicle for
recruitment is through Islamic or Study Circles. These meet at members’ homes or com-
munity centres and generally involve five or so aspirant members meeting regularly under
the supervision of an experienced member. An indoctrination period usually lasts for up
to two years, at which point the member is accepted into the organization. Although its
members are secretive, HT leaders deny this. Senior members’ and correspondents’
email addresses are listed in Khilafah, and they actively seek media interviews. HT
uses the Internet for promotion of its ideology, and e-mail and face-to-face meetings
for command and control. Communique
´s and press releases published by the group
are all published in the same format and with the same type of wording. Initially, HT
sought to recruit only among students. HT does not now recruit on the streets or in
the prisons. HT went someway down recruiting the disenchanted from the streets but
has now reverted to recruiting in the universities. HT is not a populist movement like
the Brotherhood or other Islamist movements; it is elitist. To appeal to established
people, HT also promotes a progressive line on family issues and one which is designed
to appeal to educated elites.
In the West, HT’s recruitment efforts benefit from discrimination against Muslims and
from the unfulfilled expectations of Muslim migrants, who often see the functioning of
their host societies as “unjust”.
HT is known to target frustrated youth who have lost
faith in their home country’s “system”. In the West, both political Islamist groups and
white ethno-nationalists focus their efforts on young men between the approximate
ages of 16 and 22. They have carefully studied the interests of this demographic and
have found that much of their time is spent online in chat groups, game-related sites
and music-related sites where they can either download music or chat about a particular
band. Most of their online activities revolve around interaction with others who share
similar interests.
One reason why other groups with similar goals seem unable to
amass the same degree of international support is that HT adapts its message to
appeal to the desires of the populations it is trying to impress. In Central Asia, where
post-Soviet independence spawned people’s desires to return to their Islamic roots,
HT attracted adherents by misleading them into believing that they would receive reli-
gious instruction. In Europe, where Muslim populations often feel marginalized, HT
has positioned itself as a political advocate.
In the British context, where a majority of ulema are impor ted from Pakistan, few could
be judged “sophisticated scholars of Islamic law and exegetes of the Qur’an”. The social
status of the majority of mosque imams is modest, whether in Pakistan or in Britain.
Negative perceptions are the staple of many Muslim websites, commenting that teaching
methods of imams are characterised by “the stick not love”.
For second and third generation Muslims living in the West, many of whom do not
speak Arabic, HT’s easily accessible literature (in PDF format on HT websites) provides
an alternative source of political and historical information and theological interpret-
ation. These Muslims often complain their only source of information about Islam is
books written by Western specialists, the “Orientalists”. HT fills this void with its own
interpretation of religion and world events, thus purportedly raising the consciousness
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of these and other Muslims. The recruitment method varies from country to country, but
in general, a young person who is looking for answers to existential questions meets an
HT member, who may be a co-worker, another student or a neighbour, who then
brings that person to the party. Prospective candidates are formally introduced to the
party apparatus by interacting with a study circle. Most people initially join to learn
about Islam, but then are gradually indoctrinated. HT’s propaganda machine reaches
its prospective constituency through the party’s print media circulations, the Internet
and personal recruitment. There are at least seven websites that are related directly to
HT. One of these websites is devoted exclusively to interaction with the mass media.
HT’s print media outreach generally takes the form of leaflets. Party leaflets, emulating
a tactic used by Marxist-Leninist groups during the Cold War, will usually convey three
concepts: a statement of the party’s mission, a detailed expression of its position on
current political issues, and a call for recruitment. The leaflets in English are unusually
well written and indicate a good understanding of global affairs. These leaflets, accessible
over the Internet in various languages, provide the ummah with timely and coherent
explanations of current events in a way that fits HT’s framework. The party also
diligently recruits on college campuses in open societies.
Socio-Economic, Political and Theological Deprivation in Britain
In Britain, the Muslim population is young and rapidly growing; its socio-economic
profile is depressed, marked by the exceptionally low participation rate of women in
the formal labour market, and by high concentration in areas of multiple deprivations.
Muslims generally live in areas that are facing high levels of social tension and economic
deprivation through direct discrimination and racial hostility. Muslims often have had
little choice but to retreat into their communities.
Evidence from the 2001 Census
of England and Wales and Labour Force Surveys clearly shows that the unemployment
rate for Muslim groups was still almost three times as high as the rate for whites.
overwhelming majority of Muslims live in inner-city rundown areas with a high
general level of physical housing problems.
Where there is this clear separation
between Muslims and non-Muslims, there is room for jealousy and resentment, and
this is something that far right Islamists or far right secular political actors can
Despite the legislation in Britain against racial discrimination for the last 42
years, ethnic minorities including Muslims are still victims of racial discrimination.
Sometimes Muslims face multiple discriminations, racial as well as religious. Muslim
women could also face additional discrimination based on gender. There are only four
Muslim Members of Parliament (MPs) in the House of Commons out of a total of
646 MPs. However, to reflect the numbers of Muslims in Britain there should be
more than 20 MPs of Muslim origin. There are nine members of Muslim origin in the
House of Lords. Again to reflect the Muslim population there should be at least
another 18. Some councils remain actively hostile to Muslims. In addition the policies
put in place to tackle the problems are insufficiently implemented in practice. For
example, despite the government’s policy to fund faith-based schools, only seven have
received government funding nationwide.
Muslims generally feel that government
departments are unsympathetic to issues concerning Muslims and that Muslims are
under-represented in the higher echelons of power in the central government.
attention is being paid to widening economic, social and cultural polarities, and the
role of foreign policy. The continued focus on culture, identity, ethnicity and religiosity
per se takes attention away from alienation, exclusion and disempowerment.
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Lacking a strong Islamic cultural foundation, and feeling the sting of European
apprehension towards Muslim immigrants, many Muslims living in Britain have
begun to perceive the society in which they live as discriminatory and racist. In a
sense, their perception is not without foundation. For example, despite the fact that
most British Muslims view religion to be a dominant factor in their identity, the Race
Relations Act of 1976 recognized “Gypsies, Sikhs and Jews as special ‘ethnic groups’
and provided them with special racial protection”, excluding Muslims altogether.
Disaffection, disenfranchisement and isolation are functions of both poorer and richer
Muslims, and are adequate to lead either into radicalisation.
Against the backdrop of
social alienation and internal disorder, “Islam has become a template for the culturally
confused, a language of protest for the politically frustrated”.
The media generally
highlight the extreme views of a tiny minority of individuals which make headlines but
which are damaging community relations, and increasingly contributing to the feeling
of insecurity among British Muslims.
As a result of ongoing racism, they experience
a sense of dislocation and alienation, perceived or real, which negatively affects their
outlook. These experiences encourage some to seek to “resolve” Muslim issues, both
at home and abroad.
Young British Muslims today faced with exclusion, marginaliza-
tion, disempowerment, media bias, political rhetoric, far right hostility, perceptions in
relation to British and US foreign policy, a lack of appropriate Muslim leadership in
Britain and a regressive interpretation and application of Islam find this as a reactive
rather than a pro-active experience.
Since the events of 9/11 and 7/7 the civil liberties of citizens have been eroded.
Already generally excluded, disadvantaged, alienated, misrepresented and vilified, in
the current period Muslim minorities are further thrust into the limelight in negative
terms. “Home-grown” radicalisation is a phenomenon that has emerged through rever-
sion to a mono-cultural politico-ideological project that came as a response to the 2001
urban disturbances in the North of the UK and the events of 9/11 in the USA. This has
significantly impacted on civil liberties as well as providing a blame-the-victim approach
propagated by dominant media and political discourses.
Many young inner-city-British-born Muslims are disconnected and disgruntled. They
lack social, cultural and economic opportunities, while disengaged from the political
process. They cannot always connect with rural-born uneducated leaders and elders
whose attention is on matters elsewhere.
Looking for orientation, young Muslims
today are led to “religious seeking—a process in which an individual searches for some
satisfactory system of religious meaning to interpret and resolve his discontent”.
However, given that many of them lack a strong understanding of theology, and that
the communities in which they live lack a proper social and theological infrastructure,
many are left to self-declared spiritual leaders, who provide them with a quick fix for
their identity crises while pushing them slowly towards radicalism.
Interviews con-
ducted by Quintan Wiktorowicz with members of al-Muhajiroun confirm radical
Islam’s role in exploiting the vulnerabilities carried by Muslim “seekers”. He found
that “Virtually all of the members who were interviewed recalled a point in their lives
where they felt they had no purpose in life and lacked a sense of belonging”.
general, local Islamic institutions are not fit for purpose. A sometimes radicalised
(pseudo-)Islamic outlook is promulgated by burgeoning Salafist bookshops. Young
people have the ability to download problematic fatwas from websites, with the
medium of English used to communicate fanatic ideals with much effect.
There are
numerous social scientists and humanities experts but one cannot easily count on one
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hand the number of high-profile Muslim theologians who could be regarded as
Local Muslim leadership is relatively weak, including its capacity and the vision it has
for the future. Inter-generational tensions are not being resolved, particularly in relation
to patriarchy. And, for the most part, mosques and imams have underserved their com-
munities, not in terms of how the young are thought to have become radicalised, but
rather, in how they have been removed from the direct religious edification of
Muslims. Young Muslims have subsequently gone on to form their own study circles,
use the Internet to access alternative sources of information and utilise modes of com-
munication familiar to them, that is, the English language. Here, the already margina-
lised and predisposed are particularly vulnerable to negative external influences when
all else has failed them internally.
The root lies in the identity vacuum of second-
and third-generation Muslim minorities, and the reason for that has as much to do
with the working of government policies in the inner cities as it has to do with the infec-
tiveness and the lack of resourcefulness of Muslim communities, particularly in the north
of England.
Western Europe’s difficulty with absorbing and integrating Muslim immigrants has
left many Muslims without a sense of belonging and purpose, which HT can
Confused about their identity, they become attracted to HT, which is able
to provide them with answers. The increasingly anti-Muslim mood in Western Europe
further leads Muslims to feel they must adopt an identity that is prescribed for them.
If they are perceived first as Muslims (and only second, if ever, as Europeans), and if
that identity is equated with terrorism, radicalism and even backwardness, Muslim
pride kicks in.
The “Root” of all Radicalism
Some have claimed that foreign policy is the root of all terrorism while some essentialist
others identified the threat of a neo-religious imperative, and insisted that its evil is
enough to cause any act of radical violence. Some underline a lack of Muslim integration
in Europe. The reality is a mixture of all these factors.
HT benefits from the overall growth in anti-Americanism and anti-Semitism world-
wide and actively promotes the clash of civilizations and the destruction of what they
view as American hegemony. While the US has so far not advanced any convincing argu-
ments for either its invasion of Iraq or its subsequent management of the occupation, HT
for its part has built a strong ideological case.
HT members believe contemporary
international politics is being dominated by US efforts to wage a “fourth crusade”
against Muslims. Islamists were galvanized by President Bush’s reference to the war
on terrorism as a “crusade” in September 2001. Similarly, when he declared that “you
are either with us or against us”, HT inferred from this comment and subsequently
conveyed to its grassroots elements that Bush meant “You are either with Western
civilization and democracy, or Islamic civilization”.
Muslim attitudes towards the US began to change with the creation of Israel in 1948,
and increasingly worsened as more and more Muslims perceived the US to be improperly
backing Israel and their corrupt, repressive rulers. The major shift in popular opinion
against the US started with the Bosnia War. Even secular, non-political Muslims were
furious about Western indifference to the mass killings of their co-religionists. While
the US (unlike major European countries) did finally come to the help of the Muslims,
the damage to the US reputation had already been done. Watching the media coverage
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of the brutalities and with international communication and travel becoming easier,
Muslims all over the world shared a sense of injustice. The slaughter of Muslims in the
heart of Europe was a major turning point for the global Muslim consciousness.
actions in the Israeli Palestinian conflict were increasingly perceived as biased. Stories
emerging from Washington that blamed neoconservative elements within the adminis-
tration for the decision to go to war in Iraq only served to reaffirm the Muslim perception
that the US foreign-policy process was permanently tainted by pro-Israeli and
anti-Islamic ideology.
International ideas and events impact upon the course and effectiveness of Muslim
political activity in Britain for better or for worse.
Chatham House claimed directly
after 7/7 that the war in Iraq made the UK a target and many within the UK domestic
security services often express their exasperation for having to pay for what they view as
mistakes in the British foreign policy.
The difficulty in situating UK foreign policy
within an account of the radicalization towards violence of some British Muslims, as a
means of objectively assessing how it has or has not contributed to that radicalization,
pervades many of the analyses that followed the London attacks—including, notably,
the PET report. The issue of foreign policy is raised, its central importance is noted,
but little if any account is offered of its relationship with domestic radicalization.
Instead, there is a return to the need for “integration” and by extension for a reworking
of the domestic framework of multiculturalism.
Since the establishment of Israel in 1948 the fate of the Palestinian people has occu-
pied a central place in Islamic politics. For mainstream Muslims, the status, suffering
and future of the Palestinian people has been an important focal point. However, for
the Islamist movement, the experience of the Palestinians has served a different, and
more important, purpose. The failure of the international community to effect a resol-
ution of the Palestinian claim has provided an influential, if not vital, recruitment tool
for the extremists.
Since the Rushdie affair, a series of other crises has disrupted any
processes of integration into Britain and induced a sense of widening alienation. The
Gulf War, Bosnia, Palestine, Kashmir, Chechnya, September 11, the nuclear confronta-
tion between India and Pakistan, the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, have all mobilised
Pakistanis and other Muslims on to the streets of Britain, with Muslim representatives
regularly invited to Downing Street and Muslim MPs openly protesting against the
wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.
Pakistanis in Britain identify deeply with the plight of
Palestinians, Bosnians, Kashmiris, Afghans or Iraqis. They see the West as an oppressor.
The result has been that rather than peaceful integration, the Muslim diaspora commu-
nity in Britain has had to lurch from one crisis to another, from the Rushdie affair to the
Gulf War to September 11. The images of alienation these conflicts have generated have
been exacerbated by the inner-city rioting of young Pakistanis in northern British towns
and by the revelation that some young British Muslims had joined the Taliban.
A research report on HT prepared for a Washingtonian think tank advances a number
of key foreign policy recommendations to the US, showing that at least some analysts
agree that Western foreign policy has had an impact on radicalism. The repor t rec-
ommends that the US needs to rehabilitate its credibility and moral authority so that
Muslims can once again be inspired by the ideals for which the US stands. Secondly,
to change the perception that American foreign policy is “unjust”, the most important
step the US can take is to ensure a two-state solution to the Israeli Palestinian conflict
that will be seen as fair by a majority of Muslims. Thirdly, the US needs to help Muslims
improve their socio-economic conditions in visible ways, and in particular should focus
on eradicating inequitable wealth distribution, corruption and cronyism.
There is a
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growing anti-Americanism and anti-Semitism, especially in Europe, and groups like HT
benefit from this trend. Furthermore, the US in many quarters is no longer seen as a just
and moral power and its actions in Iraq are creating for the first time a truly global
ummah that shares HT’s political views.
There is a feeling among many Muslims that British and US foreign policy has
impacted on the perceptions of already much maligned and disenfranchised young
Muslim males who feel they have no voice.
Many Muslims link their perception of dis-
crimination with international affairs, pointing towards a British bias in favour of Israel
and against Palestinians.
Members of the Muslim community argue unequivocally
that the Muslim community as a whole has failed to effect real change in British
foreign policy. At the level of foreign policy, the government has sought consultation
with British Muslims in part to gain acceptance of its foreign policies. It is a way of
informing and (hopefully) convincing British Muslims, through their leaders, of the
correctness of government policy—as the term “multipliers” in the Foreign and
Commonwealth Office jargon hints at.
On a last note, the European Union’s handling of Turkey’s candidacy will be an impor-
tant test of Western policy. If the Turkish Muslim tradition that emphasizes a conver-
gence of civilizations is accepted by the EU, then HT will lose in its argument that
there is a clash of civilizations. If the EU decides to bring in Turkey as a member, the
EU will demonstrate that the Islamic and Western civilizations are fully compatible.
On the other hand, if the anti-Muslim sentiment in Europe continues to increase, and
Turkish Muslims are lumped together in the European mind with radicals, then the
ideological war will be truly lost.
The battle for the accession of Turkey into the
European Union will rage on while commentators and officials struggle over the question
of whether the European Union is essentially a club of Christian nations.
The performance of HT in the four countries we have surveyed varies enormously both
due to internal as well as external factors. The HT has been influential in Uzbekistan
where there is a religious and theological vacuum in the post-Soviet period and young
Uzbeks have been searching for a compatible Islamic identity that is in tune with the
Zeitgeist. Until very recently HT has been the only source of such discourse that
would also connect the young Uzbek to the outside Muslim world. Socio-economic
and political deprivations in addition to oppression has only exacerbated HT’s influence
in the country.
HT could not be influential in Egypt as it is in Uzbekistan. Similar to Uzbekistan,
while the socio-economic and political deprivation and authoritarianism variables exist
also in Egypt, there is no theological vacuum where the Muslim Brotherhood has been
a solid opposition force with a more or less contemporary, competent and global
The Turkish case shows also that the richness and diversity of religious life, myriad
number of religious groups, brotherhoods and communities, several theology faculties,
hundreds of Islamic publishers, journals and dailies in addition to legally operating
Islamist parties have made HT’s discourse redundant in Turkey.
In the British case, although similar to Turkey, there is no question of political freedom
unlike the Egyptian and Uzbek cases, socio-economic and political deprivation as far as
Muslims are concerned is an everyday reality. In addition, theological vacuum is also
influential in making HT’s discourse attractive to the young Muslims who suffer from
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also identity issues, exclusion, racism and discrimination. Moreover, British foreign
policy which is perceived as unfriendly, to say the least, towards the Muslim world, in
the eyes of the young Muslims only justifies what HT has been asserting so far. Lack
of community leadership together with lack of intellectual and theological Muslim scho-
larship makes HT’s otherwise naı¨ve and simplistic rhetoric virtually unrivalled.
1. Z. Baran, Hizb ut-Tahrir: Islam’s Political Insurgency, Washington, DC: Nixon Center, 2004, p. 16.
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3. Z. Baran, Hizb ut-Tahrir: Islam’s Political Insurgency,op. cit., p. 17.
4. Z. Baran (ed.), The Challenge of Hizb ut-Tahrir: Deciphering and Combating Radical Islamist Ideology,
Washington, DC: The Nixon Center, 2004, pp. ix xi.
5. H. Haqqani, “The Ideology of Hizb ut-Tahrir”, in Z. Baran, The Challenge of Hizb ut-Tahrir,op. cit.,
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6. Z. Baran, Hizb ut-Tahr ir: Islam’s Political Insurgency,op. cit., pp. 10-11.
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8. Z. Baran, Hizb ut-Tahr ir: Islam’s Political Insurgency,op. cit., p. 71.
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10. Z. Baran, Hizb ut-Tahrir: Islam’s Political Insurgency,op. cit., pp. 77–78.
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14. Ibid., p. 41.
15. Ibid., p. 55.
16. Z. Baran, Hizb ut-Tahrir: Islam’s Political Insurgency,op. cit.,p.72.
17. M.B. Olcott, and D. Ziyaeva, Islam in Uzbekistan: Religious Education and State Ideology, Washington,
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31. Ibid., p. 393.
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35. Ibid., p. 158.
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40. S. Ismail, “Confronting the Other: Identity, Culture, Politics, and Conservative Islamism in Egypt”,
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41. Ibid., p. 201.
42. S. Ismail, “The Paradox of Islamist Politics”, Middle East Report, No. 221, Winter, 2001, p. 37.
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46. A.R. Norton, “Thwar ted Politics: The Case of Egypt’s Hizb al-Wasat”, in R.W. Hefner (ed.) Remak-
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47. M. Zahid and M. Medley, “Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt & Sudan”, op. cit., p. 705.
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49. Z. Baran, The Challenge of Hizb ut-Tahrir,op. cit., pp. xi xiv.
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op. cit.,p.37.
51. Z. Baran, Hizb ut-Tahrir: Islam’s Political Insurgency,op. cit., p. 36.
52. Ibid., p. 35.
53. R. Cakir, “The Rise and Fall of Turkish Hizb ut-Tahrir”, in Z. Baran, The Challenge of Hizb ut-Tahrir,
op. cit.,p.39.
54. Ibid., pp. 38– 39.
55. Z. Baran, Hizb ut-Tahrir: Islam’s Political Insurgency,op. cit., p. 36.
56. Ibid., p. 37.
57. M. Whine, “Hizb ut-Tahrir in Open Societies”, op. cit., p. 101.
58. Ibid.. pp. 102– 106.
59. Z. Baran, Hizb ut-Tahrir: Islam’s Political Insurgency,op. cit., p. 131.
60. M. Gruen, “Demographics and Methods of Recruitment”, in Z. Baran, The Challenge of Hizb ut-
Tahrir,op. cit., p. 116
61. Ibid., p.122.
62. P. Lewis, “Imams, Ulema and Sufis: Providers of Bridging Social Capital for British Pakistanis?”,
Contemporary South Asia, Vol. 15, No. 3, 2006, p. 274.
63. Ibid., p. 276.
64. Z. Baran, Hizb ut-Tahrir: Islam’s Political Insurgency,op. cit., pp. 20– 31.
65. C. Peach, “Muslims in the 2001 Census of England and Wales: Gender and Economic Disadvan-
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67. M. Anwar, “Muslims in Western States: The British Experience and the Way Forward”, Journal of
Muslim Minority Affairs, Vol. 28, No. 1, 2008, p. 131.
68. Ibid., p. 132.
69. T. Abbas, “British Muslim Minorities Today: Challenges and Opportunities to Europeanism, Multi-
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70. M. Anwar, “Muslims in Western States”, op. cit., pp. 132–134.
71. Ibid., p.134.
72. T. Abbas, “British Muslim Minorities Today”, op. cit., p. 723.
73. Q. Wiktorowicz, “Joining the Cause: al-Muhajiroun and Radical Islam”,
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74. T. Abbas, “Muslim Minorities in Britain”, op. cit., p. 296.
75. C. Murphy, Passion for Islam, New York: Simon & Schuster, 2002, p. 276
76. M. Anwar, “Muslims in Western States”, op. cit., p. 133.
77. T. Abbas, “Muslim Minorities in Britain”, op. cit., p. 291.
78. T. Abbas, “Ethno-Religious Identities and Islamic Political Radicalism in the UK: A Case Study”,
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79. T. Abbas, “Muslim Minorities in Britain”, op. cit., p. 288
80. T. Abbas, “British Muslim Minorities Today”, op. cit., p. 731.
81. Q. Wiktorowicz, “Joining the Cause”, op. cit.
82. Z. Baran, Hizb ut-Tahrir: Islam’s Political Insurgency,op. cit.,p.59.
83. Q. Wiktorowicz, “Joining the Cause”, op. cit.
84. T. Abbas, “British Muslim Minorities Today”, op. cit., p. 724.
85. Ibid., p. 731.
86. T. Abbas, “Muslim Minorities in Britain”, op. cit., p. 297.
87. T. Abbas, “Ethno-Religious Identities”, op. cit., p. 437.
88. Q. Wiktorowicz, “Joining the Cause”, op. cit.
89. Z. Baran, Hizb ut-Tahrir: Islam’s Political Insurgency,op. cit.,p.58.
90. H. A. Hellyer, “Engaging British Muslim Communities in Counter-Terrorism Strategies”, The
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91. Z. Baran, Hizb ut-Tahrir: Islam’s Political Insurgency,op. cit.,p.49.
92. Ibid., p. 19.
93. Ibid.,p.89.
94. Ibid.
95. L. Radcliffe, “A Muslim Lobby at Whitehall? Examining the Role of the Muslim Minority in British
Foreign Policy Making”, Islam and Christian-Muslim Relations, Vol. 15, No. 3, 2004, p. 370.
96. H. Hellyer, “ Engaging British Muslim Communities”, op. cit.,p.12.
97. S. Brighton, “British Muslims, Multiculturalism and UK Foreign Policy: ‘Integration’ and ‘Cohe-
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98. K. Connor, ’“Islamism” in the West? The Life-Span of the Al-Muhajiroun in the United Kingdom’,
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99. P. Werbner, “Theorising Complex Diasporas: Purity and Hybridity in the South Asian Public
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100. Ibid., p. 907.
101. Z. Baran, Hizb ut-Tahrir: Islam’s Political Insurgency,op. cit.,p.5.
102. Ibid.,p.4.
103. T. Abbas, “Muslim Minorities in Britain”, op. cit., p. 291.
104. Z. Baran, Hizb ut-Tahrir: Islam’s Political Insurgency,op. cit., p. 58.
105. L. Radcliffe, “A Muslim Lobby at Whitehall?”, op. cit., p. 376.
106. Z. Baran, Hizb ut-Tahrir: Islam’s Political Insurgency,op. cit., p. 134.
107. T. Abbas, “British Muslim Minorities Today”, op. cit., p. 732.
Hizb ut-Tahrir—Success and Stalemate 517
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Since the international Islamic revolution anticipated by some in the mid-1990s failed to happen, some writers have claimed that political Islam itself has failed. These arguments miss the point, mostly because they limit the political to activities concerning the state and government alone. Islamists are both conscious strategists and beneficiaries of deeper social change. Islamist politics, understood in this way, has proven its adaptability and resiliency.
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Although advocates of liberal Islam deserve U.S. support, it will take decades for them to secure a politically significant foothold in the Arab world. For democracy to have any hope in the Arab world, it is not Islam that must be fixed, but politics itself.
Until recently, the very idea of an Islamist political party would have appeared a contradiction in terms. Hassan al-Banna, founder of Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood and one of the forebears of Islamism, was cautious to refer to his group as movement rather not a party; for him, political parties and even nation-states were Western inventions that could have no place in the global Islamic polity (the umma). But how much does the modern Islamist party represent a departure from traditional Islamism versus a tactical retreat in the face of powerful secularist regimes? Whether Islamists will accept an authority separate from shari‘a and how they will define the minimum qualifications of candidates for public office promise to be decisive issues.
Almost one third of the world's Muslims live as minorities in non-Muslim states. This article examines the position of Muslims in the West with special reference to Muslims in the United Kingdom. First, an overview of Muslims in Western states is presented, concentrating on Muslims in the United States, Canada, Australia and Western Europe. Second, the demographic and socio-economic position of Muslims in Britain is discussed, particularly highlighting various issues facing them. Third, the issues of religious discrimination and the feeling of insecurity among British Muslims, as well as state policies towards Muslims, are examined. Finally, it is argued that Western states, including Britain, have a long way to go in terms of their policies to accept Muslims as equal citizens and, in this context, several lines of action are proposed.
The article presents new data for the Muslim population of Britain from the 2001 Census. It uses the cross tabulations of ethnicity by religion to back-project the growth of the Muslim population from 21,000 in 1951 to 1.6 millions in 2001. It examines the social, economic, demographic and geographic characteristics of the population. Although Muslims are often represented as a homogenous group, there are considerable internal differences, so that the characteristics of the population as a whole do not apply to all groups within. The 2001 Census shows that two-thirds of British Muslims are ethnically Pakistani, Indian and Bangladeshi, but one-third comes from diverse European, African, North African, Middle Eastern and other Asian sources. Nevertheless, Muslim gender roles emerge as a critical differentiator of socio-economic vulnerability. Taken as a whole, the Muslim population is young and rapidly growing; its socio-economic profile is depressed, marked by the exceptionally low participation rate of women in the formal labour market, and by high concentration in areas of multiple deprivation.