Islam's ideological vanguard
October 31, 2005
By Zeyno Baran
Extremist Islamist organizations such as Al Qaeda have become well known in recent years for trying to accomplish their objectives through violence. Less well known, however, are the organizations devoted not to direct action but to ideological struggle. Of these, the most important is Hizb-ut-Tahrir (HT, or the Party of Liberation), a transnational movement that has served as radical Sunni Islamism's ideological vanguard.
HT is not a terrorist organization, but it can usefully be thought of as a conveyor belt for terrorists. It indoctrinates individuals with radical ideology, priming them for recruitment by more extreme organizations where they can take part in actual operations.
HT's exact size is difficult to confirm because the group is composed of secretive cells, but its membership is estimated to number in the hundreds in European countries, such as Denmark, and up to tens of thousands in Muslim countries, such as Uzbekistan.
Because many governments recognize the threat it poses to them, HT is banned in most of the Muslim world, as well as in Russia and Germany. But until recently, it has been allowed to operate freely elsewhere - most notably in Britain, where it has played a major role in the radicalization of disaffected Muslim youth.
Since HT occupies a gray zone of militancy, with its activities involving more than mere expression of opinion but less than terrorism, regulating it poses a unique challenge to liberal democracies.
Hizb-ut-Tahir was founded in 1953 by a Palestinian judge who asserted that the only way to re-establish the kind of Islamic society promulgated by the Prophet was to liberate Muslims from the thoughts, systems and laws of nonbelievers and replace the Western nation-state system with a borderless umma ruled by a new caliph.
Under the current leader, Ata Abu Rashta, a Palestinian who had served as HT's spokesman in Jordan, HT has become more aggressive. But to avoid problems with law enforcement, HT scrupulously refrains from engaging in criminal or terrorist activities.....
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Islamic Group Banned by Many Is Not on U.S. Terrorist List
By David B. Ottaway
Washington Post Staff Writer
Monday, December 27, 2004; Page A04
The militant Islamic group exhorts Muslims to suicide bombings, martyrdom against American "infidels" and the killing of Jews. It openly advocates replacing all Middle East governments with an Islamic caliphate and rails against "the American campaign to suppress Islam."