Saturday, 7 July 2007

The Future of Hizb ut Tahrir in Britain

By: NOMAN HANIF
Published: June 27, 2007

The release of Ed Husain’s book, “The Islamist” and its serialisation
by the UK media seems on the surface to be a coup’detat for British
intelligence. A former insider from the seemingly “secretive” and
“impenetrable” radical Islamic organisation, Hizb-ut-Tahrir
(Liberation Party) has openly shared with the public the “inner”
dynamics and thinking of this well known but little understood
organisation. In the absence of a comparative what are we to make of
this supposedly “insider” view. One must firstly give credit to HT in
that since its launch in 1952, there exists no account of any member
whether serving or disgruntled to have engaged in any efforts to
expose or undermine its organisational structure or idea base
individually or through co-operative measures with any state media
and apparatus. Especially since Ed Husain himself points out that HT
members are unique in their loyalty to an idea rather than the
organisational structure and as the example of Mr Hussein himself
suggests, intimidation or coercion etc is not a practice conducted by
HT of former members and hence not a barrier to speaking openly. Ed
Husain is probably the first and follows an increasing trend of
former members of radical movements in the Western world turning
super grass, the prominent ones being Hassan Butt from Muhajiroun
(News of the World, May 25th, 2007) and jihadist Abu Qatada (Guardian
30th March, 2007).

Along with this, MI5’s success in recruiting Abu Qatada as a double
agent (Guardian 30th March, 2007), Mohammed Aswat (linked to Abu
Hamza and alleged 7/7 bombers) to infiltrate and spy on the jihadist
network in the UK (Guardian 10th Feb, 2005) and possible courting of
Al –Muhajiroun founder Omar Bakri Mohammed (who according to credible
sources is currently under UK secret custody), would seem to vindicate
the oft criticised policy of the UK government in fomenting radical
movements on UK soil. If home advantage has been a clear positive for
the UK intelligence services, it has been a critical vulnerability for
the radical movements. Nevertheless, it would be safe to assume that
there is very little the UK intelligence services would have gained
from Ed Hussein’s insider view. Infiltration of HT in the UK would
not have been difficult as it can be gauged from Ed Husain’s own
account that HT and Muhajiroun had essentially an open door policy.
One must also not overlook the fact that HT is not an alien concept
for the UK. The party has been a subject of study for MI6 because of
its core level of support in Jordan and the consistent level of
activity in other areas of the Middle East for over five decades
(Farouki, Hizb-ut-Tahrir and the Elusive Caliphate, Grey Seal, 1994).
This point is even more poignant considering it was Britain directly
through its ‘viceroy’ in Jordan, Glubb Pasha which resulted in HT
being banned and refused registration as a political party in the
country in 1953.

So questions arise as to why Mr. Hussein would break his own silence
and attempt such a disclosure at this particular time? And whether
there is anything of value from his narrative in considering the
future of Hizb-ut-Tahrir in Britain? In this essay I will argue that
although Ed Hussain will undoubtedly be of some value to British
intelligence in creating problems within the HT membership, very
little can be gained from Ed Hussein’s narrow experience and scope in
understanding the contemporary politics of Hizb-ut-Tahrir in Britain
(HTB) and the relationship with its global position. In turn I will
demonstrate that contrary to Husein's assertion, HTB is not an
extremist or radical organisation, rather one which has moved away
from its ideological rigidity towards a cooperative pragmatism. This
transformation has positioned the organisation within the framework of
British politics in a manner that has become conducive to British
interests. Hence, its proscription is both unnecessary and highly
unlikely.

Hizb-ut-Tahrir (HT) or Liberation Party was formed in 1952 in
Palestine by Taqiudine an Nabhani, an Islamic scholar, thinker and
judge. Although HT started in Palestine it quickly spread throughout
the Islamic world and beyond including Europe, Australia and Russia.
Unlike the intellectual founders of other Islamic contemporary
movements such as Hasan al Banna, Maududi and Sayid Qutb, Nabhani
received special scholarly training in Islam from his reputable
family and the Egyptian Al Azhar Islamic University. Nabhani
perceived the existence of Western culture and colonialism as the
reason for the continued decline and subjugation of the Islamic
world. In consequence, he argued for a ‘liberation’ from this state
of affairs through an intellectual struggle against Western culture
and influence through building a popular base for Islamic revival and
seizing the reins of power to establish Islamic authority in the form
of a Caliphate. The contention was that the Islamic world had
reverted to the period of ‘jahiliya’ (before Islam) and the only
methodology to change this state of affairs was to emulate the
political journey of the Prophet Mohammed in Arabia, from his
development of a vanguard in Mecca to his establishment of an Islamic
government in Medina. HT contends that this methodology explicitly
rejects the reformism of the Muslim Brotherhood and the militarism of
the jihadists’ in its quest to transform society and state. In its
evaluation of Islamic history and contemporary politics, HT proclaims
Britain, France, US and Russia as the perpetual enemies of Islam with
whom there can be no contemporary engagement and with whom any future
Caliphate is prohibited to conduct treatise. HT and its members became
renowned for their resoluteness in adhering to the doctrine of
rejecting co-existence with what it considered un-Islamic ideas,
individuals, organisations and states. As a result HT was banned by
most of the regimes in the Islamic world and continuously attacked by
secular, nationalist and reformist organisations for its ideological
rigidity. Although, its presence in the Western world has grown, its
primary field of work remains the Islamic world. In the Western
world, governments have been under intense pressure from the US and
internally to ban HT because of what is regarded as its anti-Semitism
and anti-democratic radicalist agenda. Germany has taken the lead in
banning HT group activity but not its membership. The British
government has so far resisted the calls for HT’s proscription.

Ed Hussein’s raison detaire as proclaimed in his book and interviews
is to make us understand through his experience why young Muslims in
Britain are becoming extremists. According to Husain, “Islamist
groups pose a threat to this country that we –Muslims and non-Muslims
alike- do not yet understand”. (Husein –The Islamist). He endeavours
to help us understand the real causes of radicalisation, extremism
and terrorism through his personal but brief experience of
involvement with the trans-national radical group Hizb-ut-Tahrir (HT)
or as it is known in Britain HTB. However, questions are raised in my
mind as to the timing of Ed Husain’s book and the nature of his
message, especially since the accuracy of his understanding of HT as
an organisation would be compromised fifteen years after departure.
With the “causes of radicalisation” having become the centre of
gravity in terms of policy and research towards Muslim communities in
the UK, further questions are raised in terms of opportunism. One of
the reasons cited by Bob Beckley, lead spokesman on community
policing and counter-terrorism issues for the Association of Chief
Police Officers (ACPO), for advising the Blair government not to
proscribe HTB was that although “members are against terror” they
“can provide an insight into why people might become radicalised.”
Has Ed Hussein contributed towards this void now that he has
purportedly challenged what Dean Goodson had insinuated in the Times,
that even beyond the issue of proscription, “senior officers aver that
Hizb- ut-Tahrir… plays a ‘stabilising role’ in certain areas.” As
Madeleine Bunting responsively wrote,

“It helps that the book happened to come out last week, within a few
days of the verdicts in the Crevice trial, Britain's longest running
terror trial. Ed Husain, overnight, became one of the experts on what
needs to be done to tackle home-grown terrorism.” (Guardian, 12th
May, 2007).

As a researcher of Nabahani’s ideological and political thought I was
quite startled with the superficial understanding and treatment of
HT’s ideational base by Husein. Husein’s critique of Nabahani needs a
fuller explanation which will have to be dealt with separately and at
another time. However, some general points need to be addressed. From
Husein’s own account it is evident that the first and only point of
contact with the HT literature from within was under the leadership
of Omar Bakri Mohammed, which according to reports inside and out,
forms the most conceptually deviant period of HT’s existence in the
UK, diverting quite sharply away from its core ideas. According to
Husein’s own narrative, virtually all of his conceptual interaction
under this period was of a secondary nature from equally uninformed
members and with demonstrable ignorance in understanding the basis of
Nabahani’s thinking towards matters relating to Sharia and Western
thought. From these conceptual inaccuracies, Husein’s ‘second
reading’ of Nabahani which is from the outside, further compounds the
fog when he takes as his standard of interpretation a new found
perspective in the form of Western thought. By doing so he is unable
to comment on the vast and detailed understandings of classical Islam
given by Nabahani to justify the rejection of those areas of Western
thought which are seen to conflict with the Islamic belief and those
areas which are open to adoption. Husein applies the lens of Plato,
Hegel, Gramsci, Rousaeu etc in order to interpret Nabahani without
understanding that Nabahani had indeed echoed some similarity in
their arguments and even adopted them (Nabahani never claimed to be
the originator of these ideas), while at the same time where and why
he differed from them on basic conceptions and definitions of
realities were clearly laid out. In consequence, Husein comes to a
ludicrous conclusion which is evident to anyone familiar with
Nabhani’s work in stating:

“It seems to me that Nabhani is a product of Rousseau”. (Husein, The
Islamist, p162)

Husein’s critical agenda becomes even more questionable when he
attempts incorrectly to undermine the position and value of the
Caliphate within classical Islamic literature from a selective
reading of Sufi Islam. It was ironic that HTB representative Taji
Mustafa had to correctly point out that Husein had mislead even from
the texts of Sufi Islam;

“he (Husein) argues that key orthodox political ideas such as the
caliphate are alien to "traditional" Islam.., one of the scholars
who Husain cites as a new found reference point is the respected Sufi
Shaykh Nuh Keller. In his translation of the classical jurisprudential
work Reliance of the Traveller he states that the caliphate is
"obligatory in itself" and an integral part of orthodox Islamic
thinking. There are many examples of Muslim scholars and thinkers
more famed for their spiritualism who endorse the ideas of Shariah
and caliphate as inherently part of Islam. Husain has chosen to
ignore the opinions of these Sufis who agree with those he labels
Islamists” (The Islamist Bogeyman, Guardian 14th May 2007)

HT’s ideology and methodology to re-instate Islam is quite unique in
that it is radical yet non-violent. A concept, governments’ in the
Islamic and Western world have found difficult to deal with.
Although, it is banned in most countries in the Islamic world due to
its non-recognition of what it considers non-Islamic and hence
illegitimate regimes, it has maintained a unique structural
discipline in its adherence to its non-violent methodology.
Frustrated with efforts to combat HT’s political strategy,
governments such as in Jordan, Pakistan and Uzbekistan have attempted
but failed to bring terrorism charges against the group. For this
reason, it is not Hussein's sentiment towards terrorism but his
attempted link between HT, extremism and terrorism that needs proper
scrutiny. Indeed, Husain’s constructed linkage is not new. He follows
the same logic of Zeyno Baran from the US Hudson Institute and Nixon
Center who first termed HT as the “conveyor belt of terrorism”. Zeyno
Baran in her article for the US journal Foreign Affairs entitled the
War of Ideas described HT as the “greatest threat to Western
security”. Although Baran’s declaration of HT as a terrorist
organisation lacks any factual premise, her association with US
energy companies and Central Asian dictatorships hostile to HT cannot
be discounted as a major factor in her extreme attempt to bring HT
under the rubric of the war on terror. Moreover, Baran’s and by
default Ed Husain’s enterprise is comprehensively dismantled by
former Swiss civil servant and historian, Jean-Francois in his
research paper entitled “Hizbut Tahrir--The Next al-Qaeda, Really?”
and by the suspicious fact that neither Baran or Hussein draw upon
the only established research on HT by Exeter university academic
Suha Taji Farouki, which categorically discounts their logic.

Similarly, with recognition in Western circles that the War of Ideas
against resurgent Islam is being lost, I do not consider it mere
coincidence that Ed Husain’s exposure can be divorced from the focus
by Western governments on combating radical Islam by co-opting and
promoting elements in the Muslim world from the Sufi and secular
persuasion. Think tanks especially in the US which have graduated
from the war of ideas against Communism under the Cold War paradigm
have been awash with policy initiatives to combat radical Islam under
the same framework, the latest being the RAND corporations report
entitled, “Building Moderate Networks”. (www.rand.org) Madeleine
Bunting in her interview with Ed Hussein reveals that his conversion
to secularism coupled with his Sufi inclination seems to fit quite
neatly with this equation.

“There has never been much love lost between Sufism and Islamism -
the former criticised as politically quiescent - and one way to read
Husain is that Sufi Islam now has a sympathetic hearing in Whitehall
and the media, and has the confidence to challenge Islamist
domination of the UK Muslim community”(Guardian, 12th May, 2007).

However, the key question remains, how do we qualify the accuracy and
quality of Ed Hussein’s account and explanation?

The only official narrative available on HT is the research of Dr,
Suha Taji Farouki detailed in her book, A Fundamental Quest- Hizb-al
Tahrir and the Islamic Caliphate. Although Farouki was not an
insider, it is clear from the comparison that her understanding of HT
thought and level of organisational access was far higher and superior
than that of Ed Husein. Unlike Farouki, Ed Hussein had no experience
of HT in the Arab world and no access to understanding the ideas
outside of the British box. It can be very easily ascertained that Ed
Husein was in fact a very low level foot soldier whose organisational
access was regionally restricted and who alongside many of the young
hot-blooded recruits of that period had no real appreciation of the
complexity of HT’s ideological thought and global strategy. It cannot
be over-stated that HT is not a Western phenomena. Its membership and
area of activity remains firmly rooted in the Islamic world. HT in
Europe is largely a post 1980’s occurrence and as Farouki points out
within its own framework of importance a rather irrelevant and
tangential one at that.

“It is likely that the Party will continue to attract disaffected
young Muslims in Britain. The importance of such success to its
over-all objective of establishing an Islamic state in a Muslim
(Arab) country is questionable, however. Conversely, so is the
relevancy of its agenda, conceived for a Muslim context, yet exported
lock, stock and barrel to the context of minority Islam in a secular
Western state. Its strategy revolves around preparing society in a
location that constitutes a suitable potential home for the
Caliphate. The fruit of the struggle of ideas in a particular
location, and the process of interaction of which it is part, can
only be realised only through a process of consolidation having at
its end product the erection of the Caliphate. Such consolidation
must assume as its focus a location, within the party’s sphere of
activity, which strictly speaking does not encompass Western
countries. These remain peripheral to the Party’s primary area of
concern”. (Taji Farouki, p187)

Herein lies the crux of situating Ed Husein’s exposé. Suha Taji
situates her critique at the time of Ed Husain’s activity in HT. This
period was an extreme anomaly for HT as it deviated radically from its
stated thought and methodology via its targeting of British society
under the regional leadership of Omar Bakri Mohammed. HT’s subsequent
removal of Omar Bakri for this deviation drew an abrupt end to this
short period of anarchy. Omar Bakri subsequently went onto continue
his programme through the establishment of Muhajiroun. The refocusing
of HT in Britain, re-branded as HTB bears very little resemblance to
that period. One of the spokesmen for HT, Taji Mustafa, in responding
to Ed Husain was categorical on this point.

“The book is a personal recollection from over 10 years ago. Leaving
aside the many flaws and inaccuracies, it claims to be an account of
Hizb ut-Tahrir [the Party of Liberation] under a brief period of
aberrant leadership, which was recognised at the time. That is why
Omar Bakri Mohammed was expelled from Hizb ut-Tahrir. Husain's brief
association also ended, and the group, as many others will testify,
moved on.”(Guardian, 14th May 2007)

The truth is however that HTB has moved from one aberration to
another. In fact one could say that HTB has moved radically to the
other end of the Islamic spectrum. Today, one would find it very
difficult to identify HTB from what are recognised as the moderates.
Unwilling to face proscription and even extinction resulting from
some of its core positions, it has attempted to present a more
acceptable face to the British government and society. More
specifically, HTB has gone to extra-ordinary lengths in order to gain
legitimacy from the British establishment. In doing so it has deviated
considerably from its position of non-cooperation and co-existence
with what it considered as non-Islamic concepts and entities. Despite
its long standing opposition to co-operation with stated deviant
Islamic organisations such as the Muslim Council of Britain (MCB),
Muslim Association of Britain (MAB), the Islamic Human Rights
Commission etc, HT has shared platforms with them, even participating
in the signing of collective petitions, the text of which would have
been originally termed as un-Islamic and groups such as the MAB, MCB,
ISB etc considered as too close to the British establishment and
consequently acting as their agents.

The most subtle but monumental change has been the use of language,
which fundamentally alters the meaning of its basic political
position and concepts. For instance HTB was signatory to a petition
organised by Muslim and non-Muslim organisations and individuals
pertaining to the anti-terror laws entitled “United to Protect Our
Rights”. Despite HTB’s official rejection of non-Divine laws (Kufr),
it accepted the text of the petition despite one of the sections
calling for “The Amendment or Repeal of the Human Rights Act”.
According to the text of the petition;

“We the undersigned have not forgotten the experiences of the
conflict in Northern Ireland and the lessons of the last 30 years
when the removal of fundamental rights and the creation of an entire
suspect community achieved nothing other than the continuation of
violence, fear, bitterness and the creation of an unbridgeable
divide. We call on the government to protect all of the people by
advocating a proper and judicious use of the existing law and by
realising that over-reaction will be deeply
counterproductive.”(hizb.org.uk)


This petition and others like it signal a new pragmatism amongst its
membership for this petition and others like it bear their individual
signature. It reflects a monumental change in the basic framework
within which the HT member is developed. The grooming of its members
is expected to produce uncompromising leaders in society. The shift
from resoluteness irrespective of popularity to pragmatism in order
to gain acceptability challenges the very essence of what HTB states
is the characteristic of its members:

“A leader does not lie to or flatter people; he leads and refuses to
be led, and influences instead of being influenced. We tell people
whatever is true and correct regardless of whether they like it: we
appreciate that our approach is tough and that they may distance
themselves from us for periods of time...” (Internal document,
Farouki, p107)

The most explicit example of HTB’s own deviation from its renowned
exclusiveness was displayed at a recent demonstration on May 26th
2007, in London organised as a protest against Pakistani General
Parvez Musharraf. HTB’s own expression was the standard need to
establish the Caliphate. However, this was not the message given by
the anti-Islamic, secular and nationalist parties with whom HTB chose
to form an alliance and share a platform. Such political tactics and
platform sharing were thus no different to that of the religious and
political parties in Pakistan that HTB had criticised consistently in
its own literature. More importantly, HTB sidestepped the issue of its
fundamental political programme in the requirement for society to have
deeply absorbed the Islamic thoughts and rejected non-Islam or (kufr).
The irony here was that the groups they were supporting on the
demonstration were the complete antithesis of this ideational
requirement. One of the groups, the Benazir Bhutto led Pakistan
Peoples Party had consistently its direct opposition to any notion of
Sharia in Pakistan. Not to mention that HT rejects as against Sharia
the notion of a woman being the leader of a state. HTB went even
further and agreed a common declaration incorporating the demands of
all the parties with a press release couched in conciliatory language
with a unifying base premised on the least common denominator i.e. the
removal of President Musharraf.

“All opposition parties from Pakistan, including the main political
parties and key civil society figures unanimously sent a message to
Musharraf that he must leave office immediately and make way for a
new chapter in the future of Pakistan. The demonstration came about
after a culmination of key discussions in the past week between
opposition parties where it was agreed that a public demonstration of
disapproval against Pakistan's Western dictator was urgently needed.
Amongst the resolutions is an agreement that to co-operate with
Musharraf in any way is treachery and a crime against the people…The
other leaderships were appreciative of the gesture for sincere and
open dialogue and warmly greeted the Hizb's central role in making
the demonstration successful and for the first time bringing all of
the Pakistani opposition together” (hizb.org.uk)

What was explicit here was a clear manifestation of bandwagoning on
the influence of the secular and nationalist parties ensuing from
HTB’s desperation at not being able to achieve any measurable
partisan support in the UK and impatience with the lack of its own
success in Pakistan. It is well understood that the Pakistani
political parties have made it part of their established work to
engage with Western governments in order to lobby and enlist their
support for the achievement of their political objectives. In the
context of HT’s ideas this is tantamount to a betrayal of the Muslim
ummah (nation) yet the deviation was resounding, with no open
criticism of the stance taken by the Pakistani political parties. In
its pragmatism, HTB had effectively undermined its own opposition to
‘colonial’ assistance and legitimised the politics of these parties,
hence moving away from their own books;
“The colonialists exploited the fact that their personality had
become the focus of culture and attention in the political aspects.
They made the seeking of foreign assistance, as well as dependence
upon them, the focus of contemporary politicians, who viewed politics
as a career, rather than a responsibility. Therefore, most of the
groups attempted unconsciously to seek foreign help. Those who sought
the assistance of foreign states did not realize that any such help,
and advocating any idea of dependence upon the colonialists,
regardless of their origin, would mean that they are contaminated by
foreign poison, and it would constitute a betrayal to the Ummah, even
if the intention was good. They did not realize that linking our cause
with any other people would constitute political suicide. Therefore,
any movement whose thought was poisoned with the idea of relying upon
or advocating foreign assistance was doomed to failure.” (Party
Structuring, p12)
Similarly, even on its core political issues, to avoid censure in the
UK, HTB has gradually but consistently compromised and removed from
its website and literature references to physical jihad and the
destruction of Israel, a move which lowers its perception
considerably amongst other Islamic organisations as a genuine radical
outfit. More so, in order to avoid the charge of anti-Semitism,
subtly, the language and context of its core rallying cry, the
Israeli issue has been re-engineered from one of destruction of the
state to that of “illegal” occupation, “state terrorism” as well as
that of “Zionism” rather than the conventional language of a jihad
against Jews (the original text of the verses of Koran and the
traditions of Mohammed used by HTB to support the argument against
Israel categorically referred to the term “Jews” not Zionism) even
printing photographs of Hasidic Jews holding a HT banner on a
demonstration against the state of Israel. The manifestation of this
change of context and language is evident in two examples from HTB.
The first from a leaflet issued in July 2006 in response to the
Israeli attack on Lebanon entitled, “Israel's Massacre of Lebanon
Marks a New Zenith in The ‘War on Terror’ “. In this leaflet, by
moving the focus onto the context terrorism, HTB manoeuvred the
subject matter away from the conventional position over the
“illegitimacy” of the Israeli state and the call for its destruction
via a jihad. What could be read from the text was not a problem with
the existence of Israel but rather with its “terrorist” actions.

“Amongst those who seem unable to condemn Israel's terrorism are the
rulers in the Muslim world, who are ever more distant from the views
of their populations. While their populations demonstrate and call
for action - cutting diplomatic ties, oil sanctions on supporters of
Israel, and security for civilians - the rulers continue to support
the ongoing bloodshed.”

Further evidence of its compromise in language over Israel is
illustrated in HTB’s report entitled “Iraq: A New Way Forward”, which
attempts to establish a number of rational steps required to solve the
Iraq issue. In step 5, HTB endeavours to rationalise the issue of
Israel and in consequence for the first time uses the term
“annexation” to describe the 1948 scenario. Recognising a priori
legitimacy and existence of Israeli existence for “annexation” to
occur and then inferring a concept of “illegality” from the Western
perspective. All notions of Israel’s destruction were again carefully
avoided:

“In the context of ensuring long term stability to the region,
Israel's annexation of Palestine in 1948 should not be recognised….
Until it is recognised that the annexation of Palestinian land in
1948 was not just illegal but heralded the ethnic destruction of
lives, property and lands of millions of Palestinians, the so-called
imposed 'peace process' will not work and instability in the region
will remain. If the Zionist regime that governs in Tel Aviv has a
right to Palestine, a region it annexed in 1948, then Argentina had a
right to invade the Falkland Islands in 1982. Yet Britain sent an
armada of naval ships across the globe to reassert British
sovereignty. Today Palestinians are asked to recognise this illegal
annexation.” (HTB Iraq: A New Way Forward)

The most dramatic engagement however has been with Western
institutions, organisations and notably with the British political
establishment. One cannot overstate the significance of these
departures for they break with the very essence of its political
understanding and strategy towards Britain as the “head of the
snake” because of its considered long standing enmity towards Islam,
practice of colonialism and responsible along with France for the
destruction of the Ottoman Caliphate. The most noteworthy engagement
was when HTB responded to an invitation from Claire Short to address
politicians at Westminster on March 3, 2006, as to why it should not
be proscribed. This was indeed a monumental step for HT. For the
conventional position of HT globally was of a state of aggression
with Britain, France and the US. Under this position, the only
conceivable engagement was either ‘jihad’ on the battlefield or an
invitation to Islam. Neither of these formed the basis of exchange at
Westminster. Moreover, HTB in uncharacteristic fashion underplayed the
meeting on their website with a virtual information blackout. The
pertinent details could only be ascertained from a blogger, Harry’s
Blog who was present at the meeting. What was conveyed can only be
described as analogous to a scenario of Gerry Adams and Martin
McGuiness being interrogated by British Parliamentarians and pleading
for their sympathy for Republicanism. The Parliamentarians were
expected by the HTB delegates to find some cause of endearment for
HTB and its goal of an Islamic Caliphate. For only this could explain
why a copy of the HT Draft Islamic Constitution was given out to the
attendees instead of the conventionally understood discussion on the
Islamic doctrine itself. Imran Waheed and Jamal Harwood were
effectively courting the British establishment which was reciprocated
by Claire Short. According to the account:

“Clare Short hosted Hizb ut-Tahrir for a meeting in the Houses of
Parliament. The meeting was supposed to give Parliamentarians an
opportunity to quiz Hizb ut-Tahrir before the attempt by the Prime
Minister to have the organization proscribed. The meeting began
rather tellingly with Clare Short refusing impolitely the request by
the Jewish Chronicle to take photos of herself with either of the two
representatives of HuT. At the meeting were around a dozen
parliamentarians from both houses, including some heavyweight figures
such as Lord Lawson and Lord Avebury. To open, a document was
distributed with an open letter to Clare Short from Lord Avebury, the
letter Peter Tatchell wrote and an article from the
Bangladeshi Daily Star, entitled, ‘The long history of violence
behind Hizb ut-Tahrir’. The two representatives of HuT, Imran Waheed
and Jamal Harwood (a white, middle-class ‘city accountant’ – poor
sod) sat facing their would-be interrogators. Imran Waheed dressed in
a sharp suit with an open collar and proceeded to give a
well-rehearsed autobiographical outline of his life that made Richard
Curtis seem like a working-class rebel. Waheed went to the top grammar
school in the country (where, rather surprisingly he found HuT), after
university he joined the NHS to become a psychiatrist. The subtext; I
am a proud British Muslim, I have a good living, I have children, I
am the very embodiment of middle-class values, I listen to Radio 4 –
how could I be a threat? In-between predictable jokes about The Sun,
bonhomie about Birmingham being ‘the centre of the world’, and his
anger at the injustices in the Middle-East, Waheed managed to create
a discourse of mutual dialogue between Islam and the West that seemed
respectable and reasonable. The story climaxed with Waheed explaining
to his audience that many Hizb ut-Tahrir members were out on the
streets on 7/7 helping the victims of the terrorist atrocity.”
(http://hurryupharry.bloghouse.net/archives/2006/03/03/short_on_debate.php)


This is far from the extremist image of HTB, experienced and
portrayed by Ed Husain. In an interview for radio 5 on the 16th of
May 2007, Husain had to concede that in comparison to its break off
faction, HTB was “liberal” and then contradicted himself by
maintaining his call for its proscription on the basis that HTB was
instrumental in radicalising Muslim youth in Britain. Clearly,
Husain’s knowledge is ossified in the Omar Bakri era. Fifteen years
on and the hot-headed young university firebrands have evolved from
the Omar Bakri diversion. Most of the HTB leadership now consists of
middle aged professionals interested in emulating Western political
styles. HTB has evolved into a totally unrecognisable animal.
Obstacles to its proscription are clearly manifest from within the
British establishment. Where Western intelligence failed in the
Middle East to penetrate or influence HT, it may have succeeded in
doing so in Britain. HTB is clearly playing ball. In its quest for
state legitimacy, the guiding hand of the establishment is firmly on
it. Indeed even if this is not directly the case, HTB has done itself
no favours in terms of its image with other radical organisations and
the deeply suspicious and conspiratorial Muslim world at large. The
crude manifestation of this image and HTB’s ideological departure was
evident in the recent debate organised by the exclusive and
establishment influenced Oxford Union, where despite protestations,
interestingly but not surprisingly Jamal Harwood was given a
platform. A transcript of the speech was pasted on HTB’s website. In
a debate entitled ‘This House Regrets the Founding of the United
States of America', Harwood broke the mould and lay praise on the
political thinkers of the US as well as its statesmen. But, the most
fundamental shift occurred when Harwood avoided addressing the
secular doctrine and instead focussed on the more specific idea of
“individualism”. Again like the meeting in Westminster, the
invitation to Islam was notably absent. In a speech indicative of an
address by Iran’s reformist former President Khatami to the United
States; Harwood endorsed the concept of self-determination and
explicitly moved away from the established position of Islam’s
universality towards an implicit notion of co-existence. Was this an
implied recognition of democracy by the openly pronounced “Chairman”
of the executive committee of HTB?

“This debate is not about choosing between Caliphate and California
as claimed by Matt Frei (opposite) the choice is about the right of
peoples to choose their own way of life without US interference or
continued US oppression. You have an opportunity today to give a
resounding message against what the US has become… It is a sad irony
that despite the ideals promoted by the founding fathers, America has
proceeded in the world emulating the approach of European
colonialism.” (hizb.org.uk)

There is no doubt a duality in HTB’s persona. Its appearance on the
Sharia, Caliphate and Western adventurism in the Islamic world is
indeed couched in radical language. But as I have demonstrated above,
there has also emerged a very subtle dynamic which has aimed to
neutralise the radicalism. It would be folly to argue that HTB’s
approach in the UK was not sanctioned by its central leadership. The
unorthodox direction of the British branch is consistent with some
its leaderships own diversions. On the 1st of January 2004, the HT
central leadership addressed an open letter to the French government.
Such an address to a Western government was unprecedented in HT’s
history. Citing the issue of the French proposal to ban the wearing
of the hijab and other religious symbols in schools, the plea to
overturn the decision was based on two stated points:

“Firstly: 480 years ago in the sixteenth century, we, the Muslims,
undertook an act of goodwill towards France. Secondly: Historically,
France has a tradition of chivalry and reciprocating acts of
goodwill.” (An Open letter from Hizb ut-Tahrir to President Chirac,
President of the Republic of France)

HT’s central leadership without precedent acted in the capacity of a
Caliphate and overlooked the explicit state-of-war as outlined in its
own draft constitution based on France’s exploits in the Islamic world
post sixteenth century. The delegation sent to deliver the letter to
the French President was from HTB. It was this same delegation
comprising the standard Imran Waheed and Jamal Harwood that were
utilised to approach other Western institutions and NGO’s in order to
seek a change in their policy over the brutality of the Central Asian
governments towards their members. The conventional conceptual and
political assessment of HT is to view Western NGO’s with suspicion
considering them extensions of the policy of Western governments and
by default agents not to be trusted. As for official government
forums especially Western forums such as the OSCE, EU etc, are by
their very nature considered hostile towards Islam and the Muslims.
It would accordingly be betrayal to the cause to approach these
Western organisations for any kind of assistance or exposure. Yet
such a position was indeed adopted by its central leadership in its
various leaflets addressing Western and other humanitarian
organisations working in Central Asia and specifically in Uzbekistan
where the government has brutally tortured and intimidated HT
members. This pragmatism had broken rank with its history in the
Middle East where HT consistently refused to call upon any NGO or
Western influenced intervention despite the most ferocious onslaughts
on its members by local regimes. Using the example of its central
leadership, on November, 2006, a delegation from HTB, having been
denied a hearing by the OSCE on Central Asia, finally got to meet
Bertrand de Crombrugghe, the Chairman of the OSCE Permanent Council
and Head of the permanent delegation of Belgium to the OSCE, in
Vienna. HT was explicitly regarded by the members of the OSCE as a
threat to its security in Central Asia and it was no stranger to the
reports by various NGOs’ over the treatment of HT members. The fact
that the OSCE had not acted despite its understanding of the
situation did not deter the HTB delegation. The delegation was
clearly looking for support and assistance from its declared enemies.
According to its own press release on the meeting;

"The delegation updated the Ambassador on the deteriorating
situation in Central Asia, where peaceful political dissent has
become a justification for torture, arbitrary detention and even
extrajudicial killing. The Ambassador was reminded that previous OSCE
meetings have heard how thousands of members of Hizb ut-Tahrir have
been incarcerated in Central Asia for political dissent…The death of
several Hizb ut-Tahrir members in custody in suspicious circumstances
have also been widely commented on at OSCE meetings." (hizb.org.uk)

From these examples it can be ascertained to a certain extent that
the notion implied by some that HTB is an aberration from its central
leadership is not strictly true. The departure from conventional
positions runs through the chain. Having refused consistently to
challenge its proscription in the Middle East through the system and
the courts which it describes as un-Islamic and hence illegitimate,
HTB has again broken the mould in the UK, with the explicit
acquiescence of its central leadership. In an interview with the
Jamestown Foundation, HTB member Taji Mustafa avoided answering the
question as to the possible extinction of its organisational
structure as a result of its possible proscription. Instead, he
confirmed HTB’s commitment to fight such a move through the UK
courts:

“We will fight proscription through the courts and people should not
forget that we have a very strong case.” (Jamestown Foundation, Feb
13th 2007)

Although HTB has never given an open and clear Islamic justification
as to why it has been allowed to approach the UK court system in
order to fight its proscription, there is a clear departure from its
political understanding on the matter which regards the judiciary as
an inseparable arm of the executive in those cases which are
politically sensitive and involve national security. Thus, according
to its own political paradigm, any recourse by HTB to the courts
would entangle it in a political not judicial process or outcome.

From the above examples, there is an argument to suggest that the
consistent departure by HTB from its conventional principles forms
the backbone of disagreement between the various British institutions
regarding its proscription. For if there is benefit in HTB to the UK
government, proscribing it would ultimately lead to its extinction
for it thrives solely on the freedom of activity to keep its
membership functional. Despite its own internal memos highlighting
the futility of demonstrations, members’ anger and frustration has
been channelled away from the lack of purpose and reason for its
continued existence in the Western world towards its own failure in
the Islamic world.

This of course bodes well for the UK intelligence services. HT’s
stated pride in not having been infiltrated by Western intelligence
would no doubt have been severely tested on British soil. Indeed the
evidence seems to point exactly in that direction. Abu Qatada,
Mohammed Aswat and Hassan Butt have demonstrated the benefits to the
British intelligence services of having home advantage. In this
regard HT’s liason with OBM seems to have been a critical one. Many
analysts have questioned the relationship between UK intelligence
and OBM, particularly because of the impunity with which he operated
in the UK and secondly the convenient manner in which he left the UK
for Lebanon whilst maintaining his contact and influence with
Al-Muhajiroun fronts such as Al-Ghuraba. OBM’s startling disclosure
in an interview to the Jamestown Foundation that he had established
al-Muhajiroun as a shadowy parallel structure in Saudi Arabia in 1993
without the knowledge of the HT leadership is the strongest pointer
that he may have been himself implanted by British intelligence
(www.jamestown.org, March 23rd 2004). The reason for this is the
discrepancy in OBM’s story highlighted by the concealment of Al
Muhajiroun’s set up even to HT members and foremostly the revelations
of former US Justice Department prosecutor John Loftus who stated in a
live interview with Fox News that along with Mohammed Aswat and Abu
Hamza, Omar Bakri had been recruited by MI6 in the mid 90’s (around
the time of him taking HT leadership in the UK) to draft up British
Muslim’s to fight in Kosova. However it was John Loftus’s off-camera
remarks in the same interview which present the gravest doubt on
OBM’s story that Al-Muhajiroun had been established in Saudi Arabia;


“We arrested the New York branch of Al-Muhajiroun two years ago…The
rest of the group is under surveillance. But the US was used by
Al-Muhajiroun for training of people to send to Kosova. What ties all
these cells together was, back in the late 1990’s, the leaders all
worked for British intelligence in Kosova. Believe it or not, British
intelligence actually hired some Al-Qaeda guys to help defend the
Muslim rights in Albania and in Kosova. That’s when Al-Muhajiroun got
started..The CIA was funding the operation to defend the Muslims.
British intelligence was doing the hiring and recruiting. Now we have
a lot of detail on this because Captain Hook, the head of
Al-Muhajiroun, he sidekick was Bakri Mohammed, another cleric. And
back on October 16, 2001, he gave a detailed interview with al-Sharq
al-Aswat, an Arabic newspaper in London, describing the relationship
between British intelligence and the operations in Kosovo and
Al-Muhajiroun. So that's how we get all these guys connected. It
started in Kosovo..” (Fox News, July 27th, 2005)

What seems to transpire is that OBM’s abdication seems to fit in with
John Loftus’s key revelations that the British intelligence had been
protecting their assets such as Mohammed Aswat and Abu Hamza from
domestic and especially US law enforcement authorities. Nafeez Ahmed,
Sussex University academic and researcher on the role of British
intelligence in the War on Terror argues that despite the evidence of
various terrorist plotters links with OBM, the official reluctance to
act against Bakri and his active associates in the UK does not match
the governments willingness to act pre-emptively to foil various
terrorist plans. Instead:

“The MI6 connection raises questions about Bakri’s relationship with
British authorities today. Exiled to Lebanon and outside British
jurisdiction, he is effectively immune to prosecution” (Raw Story,
18th Sept 2006)

OBM’s influence and even leadership over people such as Abu Hamza and
Saudi dissident Mohammed al-Masaari gives an indication as to his
importance amongst the followers of jihadism and thus his potential
as an intelligence asset. More importantly, OBM’s interview with
Jamestown clearly suggests that he had high level access throughout
HT’s global chain. His six year reign as HT leader in Britain, would
have provided British intelligence ample opportunity to have deeply
and widely penetrated the organisation. Whether and to what extent
HT’s central leadership has been affected or infiltrated from the UK
is a difficult question in point and one which at this point is
unanswerable. Although, success in the currently engaged local HTB
set up is a foregone conclusion. But, HT is not Muhajiroun. It is not
a jihadist outfit and shuns violent action and terrorism. Yet, as has
been shown in the case of the jihadists and Muhajiroun, there have
been and remain potential policy uses for Islamist movements by
Western intelligence. Moreover, there is a lot of suspicion from
governments in the Islamic world that Britain is recruiting from HT
as well as Muhajiroun and using its members to further its policy
interests in places like Pakistan and Bangladesh. Hassan Butt’s work
in assisting the establishment of Al- Muhajiroun in Pakistan is a
case in point.

For this reason, HT’s non-proscription in the UK is more than just a
homeland issue. Despite its own irrelevance in the UK, HTB forms an
integral part of the wider foreign policy picture for the UK. In
spite of Ed Husain's very superficial attempt to address HT
ideology, it remains the only Islamic organisation to have detailed a
complete programme and constitution for the running of an Islamic
state and society. The notion of the Caliphate has indeed permeated
the vocabulary of most of the Islamic movements in turn becoming
widespread throughout the Islamic world. A fact that even HT’s most
ardent critic, Zeyno Baran had to admit:

“HT's greatest achievement to date is that it has shifted the terms
of debate within the Muslim world. Until a few years ago, most
Islamist groups considered the notion of establishing a new caliphate
a utopian goal. Now, an increasing number of people consider it a
serious objective. And after decades of stressing the existence and
unity of a global Islamic community (umma), HT can take pride in the
growing feeling among Muslims that their primary identity stems from,
and their primary loyalty is owed to, their religion rather than their
race, ethnicity, or nationality.”(Baran, Foreign Affairs, 2005)

This point has become more acute with the RAND report highlighting
the failure of the West over the war of ideas in the Arab world. No
doubt, Western adventurism in Iraq has dealt a severe blow to the
democratic project. In consequence, the appeal of Islam is fast on
the ascendancy. HT remains the only group capable of filling that
vacuum. Here lies the likely importance of HT in Britain’s global
calculation. The revival of a failed Cold War model by the West to
create a puppet Communist China through Hang-Kai Chek cannot be
discounted. The gaming of a potential Sunni Caliphate with a Shia
Iran has been an established scenario in contemporary security
discourse. The acute focus in the speeches of US and UK political
leaderships on the ‘Caliphate’ bears testimony to the increased
recognition of the term in radical Islamist literature since 9/11.
There is a sense of déjavous here. Having been condemned to the
dustbin of history for the past eighty years, the Caliphate as an
issue has been remarkable in its political comeback. It was the
British foreign secretary, Lord Curzon who stated in 1924;

"the point at issue is that Turkey has been destroyed and shall
never rise again, because we have destroyed her spiritual power: the
Caliphate and Islam.”

And it was British Home Minister, Charles Clarke who declared in
2005;

“…there can be no negotiation about the re-creation of the Caliphate;
there can be no negotiation about the imposition of Sharia (Islamic)
law...”

Yet despite this ideological resistance, the Western alliance or even
its individual members would have gamed for the ultimate series of
events to occur in the Islamic world i.e. the collapse of unpopular
regimes and the declaration of a trans-national Caliphate. Britain in
contrast to the US stands with the experience of history on its side
having precipitated the Arab revolt and other insurgencies in order
to bring down the Ottoman Caliphate; the Eastern Question and
Sykes-Picot are the lasting legacies of this policy. Ironically,
there is also precedent in British policy for the idea of
pre-emption. In 1915, fearing the backlash of sentiment in planning
the post Ottoman period, Britain toyed with the idea of a pliant Arab
Caliphate as a replacement for the inevitable collapse of the Ottoman
version. According to the McMahon-Hussein correspondence, a series of
ten letters between the British High Commissioner of Egypt and its
Arabist client Hussein Ibn Ali of Mecca, Britain was promised support
for an Arab revolt in return for leadership of an Islamic Arab
Caliphate. Bearing the Cold War model in mind, such planning is not
altogether in the realm of impossibility. More succinctly, HT would
have to form the central pivot in such an audacious move, as HT is
without contest renowned as the forerunner of the Caliphate. However,
a cursory understanding of the contemporary frustration and anger in
the Islamic world, as well as the religious connotation of a
Caliphate would no doubt have the potential to take on a momentum of
its own such as what happened in China in 1949 when the pro-American
elements of the Communist Party in China were executed and Hang Kai
Chek was chased out making way for a powerful and independent
Communist leadership under Chairman Mao tse Tung. Could such a
pre-emptive plan to establish a paper Islamic Caliphate be on the
British cards? Interestingly there has been quite considerable
activity at the British Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) on such
an issue. Only recently the FCO organised a closed door meeting
inviting experts on HT and radical Islam to discuss the topic “The
Future of the Caliphate”. One can only speculate that such events are
not organised in a conceptual or policy vacuum.

Under such a paradigm, HTB would be an enormous asset to British
foreign policy if effective infiltration, ideological degradation and
engagement were achieved. Even in the event of an independent
Caliphate being established, access on home soil to one of the main
movements which would either support or even form the leadership of
such an entity would no doubt be an asset. Such a position is also
recognised by its own membership. According an account by Ed Husain:

“We were also concerned about Omar’s (Omar Bakri Mohammed)
application for political asylum. I worried that the Hizb’s high
profile in Britain might jeopardise the chances of him staying in
Britain. I raised this with Bernie (member) too. ‘Oh no’, he said,
‘On the contrary’. ‘The British are like snakes; they manoeuvre
carefully. They need Omar in Britain. More likely, Omar will be the
ambassador for the khilafah here or leave to reside in the Islamic
state. The kuffar know that – allowing Omar to stay in Britain will
give them a good start, a diplomatic advantage, when they have to
deal with the Islamic state. Having Omar serves them well for the
future. MI5 knows exactly what were doing, what were about, and yet
they have in effect, given us the green light to operate in Britain.”
(Ed Husain, The Islamist, p116)

Paradoxically, since Omar Bakri Mohammed’s (OBM) departure from HTB,
he has been viewed with increasing suspicion by HT members
themselves. The burning question remains as to whether OBM was an MI5
plant. The use by British intelligence of OBM’s al-Muhajiroun
organisation to assist policy in the Balkan’s conflict has already
been highlighted above and by former British cabinet Minister Michael
Meacher who wrote:

“During an interview on Fox TV this summer, the former US federal
prosecutor John Loftus reported that the British intelligence had
used the al-Muhajiroun group...to recruit Islamist militants with
British passports for the war against the Serbs in Kosovo…The now
disbanded al-Muhajiroun group held meetings in Manchester after 9/11
praising the courage of the suicide bombers and claimed to be helping
UK Muslims to fight US troops in Afghanistan.” (The Asian News,
October 2005)

Based on some of the evidence presented, it would be very naïve to
suggest that OBM himself was not aware of Muhajiroun’s use by the
intelligence services. OBM’s consistent transformation from political
ideologue to jihadism would no doubt have raised further questions in
the minds of HT members and others including the manner of his
departure to Lebanon and most suspiciously his recent secret entry
and detainment in the UK. If in fact OBM was an intelligence plant
inside HT, then the manner in which he departed from HTB (which
according to HT spokesman Taji Mustafa was expulsion but according to
OBM was voluntary), would indicate firstly a heavy environment of
suspicion under which his situation had become untenable, secondly,
the priority of disclosing al-Muhajiroun in order to concentrate on
jihad in the Balkan’s and/or thirdly, an internal disenchantment or
struggle with the ideological exodus under OBM’s leadership. The
green light in Britain for HTB to organise a conference on the
Caliphate at Wembley stadium in 1994, despite many objections from
governments in the Islamic world, raised many eyebrows even amongst
its own members. It was at this time that suspicions started to flow
as regards Britain’s intentions, HTB and OBM. Interestingly, even if
one takes the argument that Britain was only interested in thwarting
any future Caliphate, it is difficult to understand why HT’s central
leadership would have allowed such a conference on British soil. This
is because HT has proclaimed quite categorically its understanding of
Britain’s historical role in infiltrating and thwarting key events
aimed at mobilising support for the revival of the Caliphate. In its
book ‘The Islamic State’, under a chapter entitled ‘Preventing the
Reestablishment of the Islamic State’ HT asserts:

“…many steps were taken by the enemy, especially Britain, in order to
quell any moves-whether directly or indirectly – aimed at reviving the
Islamic state…al Hussein bin Ali was expelled from Hijaz and
imprisoned in Cyprus as he had an eye on the Khilafah…the British
through their collaborators, intervened to make sure that the
Khilafah conference held in Cairo was called off and doomed to
failure; and again in that same year, the British worked hard to
dissolve the Khilafah associations established in India, making sure
that the movements ambitions were aborted and its tendency was
transformed into a nationalist and sectarian one”. (Nabhani, Islamic
State, p216)

Despite this, the holding the Khilafah conference in the UK in 1994
was seen by HTB as a positive experience, especially its media
representation throughout the Islamic world. However, the perceived
effect of such conferences by HTB in developing, aiding and building
a sound support base in the Islamic world is open to question. The
evidence for this is that the high level of activity and media
exposure in Britain has not been directly proportional to its
influence in the key areas such as the Middle East. Rather, HT’s
influence has waned considerably in those regions seen as crucial to
its work. HT’s central leadership has looked to overcome its failure
to build the popular base by relying on high profile media events
which exaggerate its influence. The recognition of this failure and
the concentration on seeking power without societal support base is
aptly highlighted by a letter addressed to members by the former
leader of HT globally, Abdul Qadeem Zaloom:

“…But the Ummah was overwhelmed by despondence and despair. She has
lost hope in everything and lost confidence in everyone after they
had deliberately placed her in certain conditions in order to make
her reach saturation point so that she would lose her hope and attain
a state of despair and submission, thus she would be easy to control
and they could pass anything upon her, without her being able to lift
a finger once her sensation became slothful and once she lost all hope
and vigour. All of this affected the Shabab(member), for they on
the-one hand look forward to the rise of the Khilafah, and their wait
has become long, thus they started to think that seeking the Nussrah
(material support) by the Party would spare them the burden of having
to perform the other actions. On the other hand, they looked to the
level that the Ummah had reached in terms of stagnation, indifference
and despondence which have almost reached the point of despair,
submission and loss of confidence and hope in everyone, and no matter
how hard they attempt to move her, she would not respond nor react…”
(HT internal document, undated)

Hence, despite its clearly stated shortcomings, HT continues to
openly call for the armed forces in the Islamic world to overturn the
regimes, sustaining a façade of readiness to its membership in order
to maintain their confidence, loyalty and support. It is worth noting
that according to HT methodology “seeking the support” forms part of
what is termed the ‘interaction stage’ with society. In the
literature of HT, seizing power is not a separate stage but a natural
conclusion of popular uprising. The concept of a military coup was
conceptualised by Nabhani as a style of support not a necessary
outcome.(Nabhani, Party Structuring) However, one would be hard
pushed to conclude this from the consistent exhortations addressing
the armed forces which can be gauged by the following example;

“In your capacity as the effective force Islam obliges you to remove
the existing rulers who govern according to the systems of
unbelief…and to place us in power so we can establish the
Caliphate…You possess the physical force which enables you to compel
these rulers to do what Islam obliges.” (leaflet, Ma’dhira ila
rabbina, Farouki, p104)

It is in this context that HTB is set up as a pivotal cog in this
media manipulation. The example of Pakistan is a case in point where
even before HT had announced itself in Pakistan, HTB had already
moved its media circus and conducted a large conference entitled
“Khilafah for Pakistan” aimed at supporting the virtually
non-existent influence in that country and primarily calling for the
armed forces to overthrow the military regime. In this regard HTB has
become a beacon for other branches throughout the world. The local
office in Indonesia has just announced the largest ever International
Khilafah Conference in August 2007 to be held at the 100,000 capacity
HGelora Bung Karno Stadium. In no manner does this reflect the
relatively small influence of HT in the Islamic world’s most populous
country. Not surprisingly Imran Waheed from the UK is listed as one of
the key speakers, demonstrating the importance of the UK branch in
terms of the conference projection. Without question, the holding of
conferences by HT and their global media manipulation has become not
only a substitute for developing a deep support base in society but a
means to veil its shortcomings. In doing so HT has deviated sharply
from the words of its own founder who warned that;

“…some colossal tasks have to be achieved before the existence of the
State…desire and optimism would not therefore be sufficient for the
State to rise, nor would hope and enthusiasm…every error in the
analogy and every deviation from the path would result in a stumble
and introduce sterility into the work. It therefore follows that
‘holding conferences’ on the issue of the Khilafah would not in
itself lead to the establishment of the Islamic state…” (Nabhani,
Islamic State, p238)

Two further issues arise from this proposed event. Firstly, the
question of its allowance by the Indonesian government as it
represents on paper a potential threat to its own constitution and
state. Secondly, the position of US and Australia being key allies
and neighbours, having defined HT as a vital threat to their
interests as well as openly expressing concern over the increasing
radicalisation of Indonesian society. If no real action is taken by
the Indonesian government or pressure exerted by its Western allies,
then one can credibly assume that a green light has been authorised
for HT. In this case the game may be the same as that of Britain.
Discussions with HT members’ have revealed suspicions about US plans
to establish a pliant Caliphate in Central Asia, the objective being
in their analysis, to cause enormous problems for Russia and even
China in order to severely restrict their struggle with the US in
international politics. It is unclear what they consider Britain’s
position on this issue. Yet it cannot go unnoticed that HT in Britain
is at the forefront of marketing globally the success of HT in Central
Asia even though it does not target the region for the seizure of
power. The idea being to capitalise on the enormous success of HT in
the region for which Britain’s former ambassador to Uzbekistan Craig
Murray has been openly co-opted due his perceived sincerity ensuing
from his removal for criticising British policy. It is also notable
that the media onslaught by HT on Central Asian governments has been
unhindered by the UK government despite causing strains in their
foreign relationships with the region and to the frustration of
prominent US think tanks whose lobbyists such as Ariel Cohen and
Zeyno Baran have labelled HT as the greatest threat to US interests
in the region. HT members also maintain however that there is
evidence to suggest the US may have backed away from such a move
because of the possibility of uncontrollable consequences engulfing
regions adjoining Central Asia such as the Middle East, Gulf and
South Asia where Islamic radicalism has strong influence. It could be
argued from this analysis that such concerns are minimised in the case
of Indonesia due to its geographical proximity and weaker affiliation
to radical Islam as identified by the RAND report, despite being the
most populous Muslim country in the world. Given that the RAND report
also argues for a return to Cold War strategy, the above example of
the failed attempt by the US to develop a compliant China as a
Communist counterweight against the Soviet Union post 1945 is a
reminder that we may not be talking here merely in the realms of
political speculation.

So what are the prospects of the UK government finding openings for
engagement inside HTB? On the basis of the evidence so far, HTB’s
move from ideological to pragmatic politics has indeed provided such
an opportunity. Conventionally, the existence of a deep understanding
of its core idea base amongst its members has been relied upon to form
a self corrective in the event of conceptual departure. This process
has however malfunctioned and even broken down, especially in the
case of HT in Britain. A major reason for this is a consequence of Ed
Husain’s narrative which demonstrates a radical degradation of the
thought base of the HTB membership. The lowering of the bar for
membership coupled with the excessive reliance on filling bodies for
continuous activity rather than ideational leadership has punctured
this mechanism. As highlighted above, the gradual but radical
deviations lead by its senior members such as Imran Waheed and Jamal
Harwood continues unchallenged. Ironically, HT member Taji Mustafa
indicated above, that a challenge to OBM from the old guard and
traditional ideologues seems to have been instrumental in his
departure. However, the weakening of the ideological base under the
current leadership seems to have penetrated deeply and widely. As a
result any challenge to the pragmatic direction of the HTB leadership
is unlikely to receive any measure of internal support. Instead
resignations from frustrated and despondent ideologues is likely to
increase. Under the current state of affairs there is a high
likelihood of pragmatists replacing ideologues and dominating the key
positions within the HTB structure. As long as the foot soldiers are
kept busy with a high level of activity, the HTB leadership is
unlikely to meet any serious challenge or redress.

In fact this state of affairs is somewhat confirmed by Ed Hussein
himself as it transpires that he has come across some interesting
information having become a darling of the UK intelligence. It was no
wonder that Zia din Sardar in his review of The Islamist stated that
it seems to have “originated from the mandarins in the Home Office”.
In November 2006, on the DeenPort forum, Husain wrote,

"Even within HT in Britain today, there is a huge division between
modernisers and more radical elements. The secret services are
hopeful that the modernisers can tame the radicals. And hence the
suspension of any ban. I foresee another split. And God knows best. I
have said more than I should on this subject! Henceforth, my lips are
sealed!"

This major division confirms what I have detailed above, what Hussein
is targeting and upon which the security services are hoping and
working for a split in the organisation. In a more recent thread,
Husain writes of HT,

"Allah is opening a window of opportunity for their
hidayah(salvation). There is a major development within HT that will
lead many of the more thoughtful activists to reconsider their
worldview and relationship with mainstream Islam and Muslims. Once
news breaks within party ranks of what is happening within their
leadership, some of the HT people will be receptive toward
traditional Islam and may well leave their brand of radical
Islamism."

Then on the same thread on 2nd May 2007, Husain writes, "Maajid
Nawaz has left HT. And there are several others inside waiting to
escape, but waiting for the right moment and reason. Don't ask me
how I know. Until last weekend, Majid was a member of the Hizb's
National Executive Committee in Britain. Some of you may remember him
from the media coverage of his imprisonment and release from his
four-year prison sentence in Egypt. Huge reverberations within HT as
to why and who is else is next etc. Ideal moment to engage with HT
people, particularly those on the Jalaludding Patel wing of the
group."

Continuing with the theme of trying to foment divisions within HT,
with respect to Majid Nawaz, Husain has claimed that Nawaz is linked
to him and that Husain influenced Nawaz's decision to leave HT. In
an interview with altmuslim.com, Husain says, "In this, I'm backed
by Majid Nawaz who, recently left HT partly as a result of
conversations we had about these issues, and more importantly, his
exposure to traditional Islam in all its diversity. Soon, Majid will
speak publicly and I ask HT members and others to listen and learn
from Majid's wisdom, knowledge, and experience. Now the good news is
that HT has proven in Britain that it can change and when pressure is
applied it has changed. And I'm hopeful that this pressure that's
on them now - exposing those core fascist values - that exposure will
cause them to change those ideas and come on board the mainstream
Muslim caravan."

In an interview with Husain by the New York Times, Husain said that
Nawaz would soon go "public with the reasons for his departure, and
explanation he hopes that will cause a stir like his own."

What this demonstrates is that despite the shortcomings of his book,
Husain has been successful in updating his information base by
penetrating HTB through his link with Nawaz and in turn becoming a
useful weapon in the hands of the UK intelligence services. However,
at the time of writing the reasons for Nawaz’s departure are not
known. Moreover, it remains to be seen what will be the effect of
Hussein's quite candid disclosures and whether there will be a
change in his public posture which aims to maintain the pressure for
proscription.

In conclusion, Ed Husein’s assessment of HT in Britain as an
extremist outfit that needs to be proscribed does not match with the
contemporary reality, a point Husein seems to be familiar with in
private and most likely advocated by him as part of the pressure to
help the “moderates“ take charge within HTB. The timing, tone,
content and publicity of his book seems to be part of this broader
game. Thus there is no real value in his book related to
understanding the ideology and politics of HT as a global movement,
precisely because he had the understanding or the access to produce
such an evaluation. Rather it is a political move most likely
engineered by the Home Office. Whatever the truth, the reality is
that the tactics seem to be working on HTB. The current HTB
leadership starting from Jalal ud Din Patel has moved literally,
intellectual mountains in order to avoid the threat of proscription.
The reason for this is because its proscription in the UK would
effectively dismantle its policy of using the international media
position of the UK for the purposes of maintaining a façade of global
influence. Ironically, it is worth noting that since Omar Bakri
Mohammed, HTB has come full circle, for according to HT members, Omar
Bakri’s departure from HTB was a result of his refusal to accept the
curtailing of media activity in the UK ensuing from his apparent
sensitive disclosures to the Arabic magazine Al- Majallah in 1995.
Although there was a clear recognition of harm from such a policy, no
explanation seems to have been given by the current leadership even to
its own members for this reversal, although it is quite evident that
HTB’s survivalist response in order to maintain this position in the
UK has once again become its own vulnerability. As such, there exists
a demonstrably sharp contrast between the deviations of the HTB
leadership and the confused but loyal foot soldiers that have been
kept busy in securing an ill defined and tangential post-Caliphate
scenario through the mobilisation of British Muslims. In this sense
the UK government’s double edged sword of applying a mere ‘threat’ of
proscription has worked quite effectively in gradually manoeuvring HTB
into compromising situations whilst allowing its media circus to
artificially inflate its influence.

HT’s existence on British soil along with its open door policy has
given British intelligence unprecedented access and the potential to
influence one of the most secretive, impenetrable and globally potent
organisations in the world. In this sense HT’s presence in Britain is
more of a threat to its own existence than to the security of the
British state. Besides, HTB has demonstrated its usefulness for UK
internal and external policy. It has already been suggested by senior
police officers that HTB provides a stabilising effect in some areas.
Moreover, unlike the ineffectual moderates, it not only speaks the
same language as that of the identified extremists but at a higher
and hence neutralising level. No doubt HTB has been successful in
the radicalisation of a generation of Muslim’s in Britain. However,
unlike renegade jihadists, they are peaceful and form no threat to
the internal security of the state. Similarly, HTB’s attempts to
affect British foreign policy through the use of open activity and
the media has been largely cosmetic. Instead, the British government
has benefited from HTB’s Muslim medium which on occasion converged
with its own goals in highlighting problem areas such as in Central
Asia and Africa etc.

Perhaps most controversially, as argued above, in the event of a
pre-emptive plan in the Islamic world, HT would be central to British
calculations and access to it from home soil via HTB essential. The
good cop bad cop policy toward HTB by the British establishment has
been very effective in regulating the direction of its leadership.
HTB and its various fronts such as ‘New Civilisation’ have already
enjoyed the hospitality of political Quangos such as the Institute of
Strategic Studies (IISS), Royal United Services Institute (RUSI) and
other prominent platforms in the name of enlisting support from
Western intellectuals for an Islamic state, an endeavour rendered
fruitless in the absence of a belief in the Islamic doctrine and/or a
functioning state model, not only by its own ideational base but also
by that of other radical ideologues such as Sayid Qutb. Hence,
notwithstanding the UK government wilting to domestic, US and
European pressure to proscribe, HT’s British future seems secure. The
paradox is that it is in the UK’s interest to maintain the status quo
with HTB and build upon the window of engagement offered by Imran
Waheed and Jamal Harwood to Claire Short and other Parliamentarians
at Westminster. The question is whether it can be done without
splintering the movement by way of internal backlash, a result which
could see the disappearance of HTB from British soil.


Copyright © Noman Hanif 2007

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1 comment:

charles said...

Influence can be defined as the power exerted over the minds and behavior of others. A power that can affect, persuade and cause changes to someone or something. In order to influence people, you first need to discover what is already influencing them. What makes them tick? What do they care about? We need some leverage to work with when we’re trying to change how people think and behave.

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