By Mafoot Simon
The Straits Times
Publication Date : 2005-12-24
In this hypothetical letter, Sheikh Ata Abu Rashta, the global leader of The Hizb ut-Tahrir al Islami (Islamic Liberation party), a transnational radical political movement which aims to re-establish the caliphate (an Islamic state), tells US Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld why his version of the caliphate is wrong
Greetings Secretary Rumsfeld
It is now crystal clear that the buzzword among you and your fellow Straussian neo-con colleagues in the White House is 'caliphate' - a global Islamic state where Islamic laws reign supreme.
You seem certain that the caliphate's goal would be to end what you consider 'moderate' Muslim nations in the Middle East, and to attack the West. The United States would of course be the prime target.
"We know that's their goal. They've said so. They've put it down in writing. Ayman Al-Zawahiri, a member of Osama bin Laden's top council, has explained (in an intercepted letter) why Iraq is so crucial to the terrorists. He outlined Al-Qaeda's goals as the following: to expel Americans, to establish a radical Islamic caliphate, and to extend the jihad worldwide."
That's what you told your folks at a Pentagon Town Hall Meeting last week.
I'll let you in on our secret at Hizb ut-Tahrir: We had a good laugh when we read the news reports about that 'letter' which your intelligence services claim to have intercepted. It was purportedly written by Zawahiri, Al-Qaeda's No. 2 and Osama's right-hand man, to Abu Musab Al-Zarqawi, their top man in Iraq. But more of that later.
I am sorry to have to disappoint you but it is not Al-Qaeda and its ilk which will recreate the caliphate. It is we, the Hizb ut-Tahrir, who will bring it about, God willing. We have been working on this for more than 50 years, ever since our very talented leader, judge Taqiuddin An-Nabhani, founded this global Islamic political organisation in 1953.
Yes, Hizb ut-Tahrir seeks the re-establishment of the caliphate (khilafah) in the Muslim world. It will establish the laws of the syariah and carry the call of Islam to the world under a system completely different from democracy, theocracy or monarchy.
It will be a unitary system of one state for all Muslims. Citizens of the caliphate will have every right to be involved in politics and the caliph (or ruler) will be a servant of the masses, governing them with justice.
These principles are enshrined in our 186-article Constitution that sets out the roles of the khalifah (the caliph), the mu'awin ut-tafweed (delegated assistant), the wali (governor) and the aamil (provincial mayor). It also sets out our policies on education and foreign affairs.
We have been working hard - within the Islamic world as well as in the West - to achieve our goal.
We are now active throughout Europe, Central Asia, Africa, the Middle East, the Indian subcontinent, Australasia and the Americas. But for the time being, our focus is on Turkey, Central Asia and Western Europe.
You seem certain that the caliphate will arise from Iraq and then spread out, but that will not be the case. It will instead begin in Turkey, with Istanbul as its seat of government.
The reason is quite obvious: It was the Turkish strongman Kemal Attaturk who abolished the original caliphate in 1924.
What we have been trying to do in Turkey is to convince our fellow Muslims to forget about the European Union. Why should they become one among many in the Union? Instead, they should lead in the fight against the West.
The disintegration of the former Soviet Union in the early 1990s was a god-given opportunity for us. We are now actively helping our brothers and sisters in Uzbekistan - a centre of scientific learning and an enlightened, tolerant culture during Islam's glorious past. We are trying to fill the deep psychological needs of Uzbeks. They have to cope with corruption, poverty, drug addiction and political repression. Uzbekistan President Islam Karimov's repressive, dictatorial ways are making our job easier.
We also have a strong presence in Western Europe. It helps that the countries in the region are having difficulties absorbing and assimilating Muslim immigrants who came in to rebuild their economies after World War II. Frustrated Islamic youths - the second and third generation immigrants who have given up on democracy - have become easy targets. They are rebelling against the system. We provide them with a cause.
It is easy for us to make inroads wherever we go because we are an Islamic political party, and not a sect or a school of thought.
So that is our plan. "We walk the talk", as I think you would put it. But have you seen a concrete plan from the Al-Qaedaists?
No. Why? Obviously, because they have none. That is why you have not read or heard them talk about their plans for a caliphate in as detailed a fashion as they speak and write about jihad (which means holy war to them).
Let me now talk about that letter from one Al-Qaeda Z to another.
We know that caliphate was a term which caught your attention during the planning stages of the Iraq war. But your concerns about the caliphate reached a crescendo only recently, after that 'letter' from Zawahiri to Zarqawi was intercepted - by your account, by your intelligence services.
To begin with, we think that if your National Intelligence Council could come up with a hypothetical letter from a fictional grandson of Osama to a family relative in 2000, recounting the struggles of a certain caliph, nothing else would be impossible for you.
That hypothetical letter and the 'letter' from Zawahiri to Zarqawi had one thing in common: They are based on the limited knowledge your intelligence community has about us - the ummah.
Interestingly, some of your own people have better horse sense - that's how you say it in your language, no? - than your intelligence services.
We have monitored what they have said about the "Z2Z letter". You ought to listen to some of them.
To begin with, take this research associate at the Hudson Institute, Christopher Brown, who wondered why the 'letter' should have both Arabic and Western dates when the 'letter' was meant for consumption by Zarqawi. The use of Western dates is customarily done only for material designed for Western consumption, not for internal communications, he said.
If I may add: Do you think they would want to put in anything as 'infidel' as a Western date in their letters to each other?
Zawahiri was also said to have mentioned that he had a daughter called Nawwar, and then proceeded to explain the meaning of the name. Your sharp Mr Brown asked why would Zawahiri need to explain an Arab name to another Arab?
Then there is this academic Juan Cole who has a good understanding of the intricacies of the Islamic world.
He has pointed out how strange it was for Zawahiri to call Prophet Muhammad's grandson, Hussain Imam, Al-Imam Al-Sibt, or 'the Imam, the grandson'.
"I do not believe that a hardline Sunni such as Zawahiri would call Hussain Al-Imam Al-Sibt. That is Shi'ite terminology," he argued.
But I like this one best. It was written by a blogger who calls himself Sonic. He said: "Remember when the US government wouldn't allow tapes from Osama or Zawahiri to be broadcast on TV, using the excuse that there might be 'hidden messages' in the broadcast that they couldn't allow to be transmitted? Now they release a 6,000-word letter from Zawahiri which could contain dozens of hidden messages for all they know. Curious, eh?"
There are numerous others but I think you have got the drift, as you would have put it in your language.
I was not at all surprised that Zarqawi himself described the letter as cheap propaganda, "without foundation except in the imagination of the leaders of the Black (White) House and its servants."
Still, your people got carried away and began producing material that was then translated and placed in Baghdad newspapers.
I am afraid you have been caught with your hand in the cookie jar - as I think you Americans would say. You cannot hope to win the hearts and minds of one billion Muslims this way.
They have heard about the weapons of mass destruction that have turned out to be non-existent. They have heard that Iraq under the tyrant and dictator Saddam Hussein was somehow involved in the 9/11 attacks but that has been debunked by your own 9/11 commission.
If you continue to push the line about these terrorists wanting to create a caliphate by first turning Iraq into their base, you would be dead wrong.
Remember, it is we, the Hizb ut-Tahrir, who will bring about the new caliphate.
Sheikh Ata Abu Rashta Emir
Hizb ut-Tahrir al-Islami