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:: Issues > Islamic Movements
Interview With Dr. Imran Waheed of Hizb ut-Tahrir
Dr. Imran Waheed is a representative of Hizb ut-Tahrir in Great Britain. It is a global Islamist political party with membership in dozens of countries, including a significant group in the United Kingdom. Their ultimate aim is to implement Islam in all aspects of life.
Saturday, June 17,2006 00:00
by David Storobin, Global Politician

Dr. Imran Waheed is a representative of Hizb ut-Tahrir in Great Britain. It is a global Islamist political party with membership in dozens of countries, including a significant group in the United Kingdom. Their ultimate aim is to implement Islam in all aspects of life. The party, which refuses to take part in any political system except that based on Islam and the Sharia, describes as carrying "the Islamic call in a political way, so as to change the current corrupt society and transform it to an Islamic society. It works also to change the current dealings (relationships) so as to become Islamic dealings (relationships) that proceed according to the rules and solutions of Islam."

Sheikh Taqi Al-Din Al-Nabhani established HT in Jerusalem in 1953 as a breakaway from the Muslim Brotherhood. The Sheikh studied and then taught at the al-Ahzar University in Egypt when he joined the Muslim Brotherhood. Later, he left the group blaming it for supporting Gamal Abdel Nassar, merely a US puppet in his view.

Now, HT is centered mainly in Britain, but with thousands of supporters and members all over the world.

In March 2004, after several bombings in Uzbekistan, its President accused Hizb ut-Tahrir of committing the acts. Many others doubt this claim, and it was personally denied to me by more than one diplomatic and intelligence official.

1. What are some of the new laws proposed and passed in Britain since the 7/7/05 bombings that may result in human rights and privacy violations?

The Terrorism Act 2006 introduces new measures to make it a criminal offence to undertake acts preparatory to terrorism, to encourage terrorism, to disseminate "terrorist publications" and to train for terrorism. The new measures also allow the police to detain suspects without charge for up to 28 days. In addition there are also new powers to ban organisations that "glorify terrorism". It must be remembered that the government initially advocated detention without charge for 90 days, the equivalent of a 6 month prison sentence.

In response, over 180 leading Muslim organisations and personalities in the UK issued a joint statement expressing concerns that the new legislation will result in the criminalising of support for legitimate resistance struggles against oppression, the detention without charge of Muslims for 28 days and the proscribing of non-violent Islamic political parties.

In late November 2005, Louise Arbour, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, warned that the new legislation posed grave challenges to human rights and risked breaking international treaties. In her letter, Ms Arbour wrote that parts of the Terrorism Bill "could pose grave challenges to effective human rights protection and set worrying precedents in the global struggle against terrorism."

2. How specifically would the laws affect innocent people and organizations, especially those that may be opposed to some government policies?

The legislation criminalises respect or advocacy for legitimate resistance against invasion, occupation or tyranny by the inclusion of the term ’glorification’ in the Bill – we believe that this is in itself criminal and tyrannical. From a historical perspective those that extended moral and political support to the African National Congress or the Sandanista resistance against General Somoza would fall foul of this legislation.

A member of the UK House of Lords, Lord Goodhart summed up the problems with the glorification clause during the Report Stage of the Terrorism Act: "The whole question of glorification is simply going to confuse and trouble the courts. The definition is amazingly wide. As I said in Committee, it is clear that if one is looking at past acts of terrorism within the very wide definition of terrorism in the 2000 Act, the War of American Independence is a terrorist act. When one then looks at glorification, it includes celebration, so that act of terrorism is celebrated every 4 July, on Independence Day. It is only a slight stretch of the imagination to suggest that the Chancellor of the Exchequer might be encouraging terrorism by saying that 4 July is something we ought to emulate by having a national day of our own. That is perhaps going a little further than the courts would be prepared to go, but I mention it because it illustrates the general unsuitability of using glorification of terrorism which can in the right circumstances be a test of whether there is an indirect intention, but it is absolutely wrong to make it the sole method of encouraging terrorism."

We are concerned that these proposed measures are intended to prevent the popular opposition witnessed in the run-up to the Iraq war should Western governments wish to attack Iran, Syria or any other sovereign nation in the near future.

The definition of terrorism in the legislation is also controversial. It now includes the use or threat of use of violence against any government anywhere. The government has accepted that there may be problems with this definition and Lord Carlile of Berriew QC was appointed to review the definition. Despite the definition being central to the legislation, the government insisted on introducing the new legislation with the flawed definition.

The Campaign against Criminalising Communities has noted that, "Armed with such a broad definition on a global scale, the UK government has enormous discretion and powers in labelling and targeting activities as ‘terrorism’. Such powers have been used as instruments of foreign policy – by protecting oppressive regimes allied with the UK, rather than protecting the public from violence. The government aim is to silence, deter or criminalise any solidarity with resistance movements abroad." [http://www.campacc.org.uk/Library/carlile_submission_040306.pdf]

3. How can these laws be reformed to effectively battle terrorism, while at the same time protecting privacy and human rights of innocent people and organizations?

This needs to be looked at from the perspective of the problem with the context of the war on terror [W.O.T.] which remains the central tenet of the USA and Britain. Fundamentally, the W.O.T. is a misnomer; at best a half-truth. There is certainly a “war” but it is neither solely aimed at eliminating terrorists and ending terror, nor is it exclusively aimed at Muslims who engage in violence to achieve their political goals. The W.O.T. (though not in a military sense) is also aimed at another larger category of Muslims who don’t support the use of violence to create political change. The objective with this section of Muslims is to win the battle for hearts and minds — a battle which is currently being lost, largely as a result of the harsh manner in which American and British policies have been carried out. Though there have been some specific political gains and military victories, these have been more than offset by large strategic and political losses. The American plans for reform in the Muslim world, an integral component to winning its W.O.T., will only be partly successful, as the U.S. itself currently lacks credibility, a key precursor to gaining change in the Islamic world.

The W.O.T. has not achieved its goal of making the world a safer place. 75% of Americans think the world is now a more dangerous place than a decade ago. Yet despite this, there remains a fundamental myopia at the heart of the American and British government’s strategy. They have not only failed to name this war correctly, but in terms of execution they are seriously ill equipped to win the battle of ideas. Finally, they have also seriously underestimated the effect of Islamic political ideas on millions of Muslims. Winning the battle of ideas requires sincere leadership, honesty, strong principles and the ability to convince your opponent through the power of thought, not the barrel of a gun.

4. What are the origins, goals and purposes of Hizb ut-Tahrir?

Hizb ut-Tahrir is a global Islamic political organisation that was established in 1953 under the leadership of its founder - the honourable scholar, thinker, able politician, and judge in the Court of Appeals in al-Quds (Jerusalem), Taqiuddin an-Nabhani.

In the Muslim world, Hizb ut-Tahrir works at all levels of society to bring the Muslims back to living an Islamic way of life under the shade of the Khilafah (Caliphate) State following an exclusively political method.

In the West, Hizb ut-Tahrir works to cultivate a Muslim community that lives by Islam in thought and deed, adhering to the rules of Islam and preserving a strong Islamic identity. The party does not work in the West to change the system of government, but works within the boundaries of the system.

The party also works to project a positive image of Islam to Western society and engages in dialogue with Western thinkers, policymakers and academics.

5. Has your organization experienced any government harassment, either before or after July 7, 2005?

In August 2005, Tony Blair declared that he would ban [proscribe] Hizb ut-Tahrir and legislation was specifically amended to allow the proscription of non-violent organisations that are deemed to have glorified terrorism.

6. Does the organization operate in the United States and if so, has it experienced harassment from the American government? [If it does not operate in the US, why not?]

The party does operate in the USA and is also active throughout Europe, Central Asia, Africa, the Middle East, the Indian subcontinent and Australasia. We have no knowledge of any specific harassment suffered by the party in the USA, although our members have of course been subject to the increasingly hostile atmosphere towards Islam generated in the wake of 9/11.

7. What are your views of Guantanamo prison facilities?

We do not share the view of some that it is an understandable ’anomaly’. Islam teaches us that people are presumed to be innocent until proven guilty and that torture is prohibited. The atrocities committed at Guantanamo Bay justified by the war on terror have been exposed many times by former inmates and international observers who have been to the camp. More than 750 Muslims have been detained there since 2002. They are designated by the US as enemy combatants and denied all legal rights, including access to lawyers. The latest abuses to come to light include the force-feeding of hunger strikers through nasal tubes wider than fingers, the simultaneous use of interrogation techniques such as prolonged solitary confinement and exposure to extreme temperatures, noise and light.

It is yet another proof that Bush and Blair’s talk of freedom and democracy is a smokescreen to hide the imperialistic agenda manifested by these wars and invasions, and their support of corrupt brutal dictators in the Muslim world.

The attitude of Western governments towards Guantanamo is not surprising given that they continue to support the worst perpetrators of political repression and torture such as Mubarak of Egypt and Musharraf of Pakistan. Their attitude is both immoral and dangerous to the world.

8. What is your view of the rise of right-wing anti-immigrant, and more specifically anti-Muslim, parties throughout Europe? Do you expect them to gain more power or fade away with time? Are they a threat to civil liberties?

The rise of far right parties like the British National Party in the UK or those throughout Europe is not surprising given the climate generated by the war on terror

Clearly, the environment created by some politicians and media outlets by constantly demonising Muslims are culpable in the rise of attacks on Muslims and the fear of Islam that is being generated in the wider society. Previously, the blame could have been levelled solely at the tabloid press, but increasingly even serious media outlets have published sensationalist and scaremongering articles that imply Muslims are deranged ’terrorists’ ready to kill all non-Muslims.

It is anticipated that such factions will grow given the advantageous climate afforded to them by the war on terror. The biggest threat to civil liberties comes from western governments that introduce increasingly draconian legislation to stifle debate and silence political dissent. The policies of these governments present a greater current danger to the Muslim community than the danger of thugs and racists.

9. Is the European Union as a whole moving towards more civil liberty or greater government regulation of organizations and individuals?

The evidence suggests that the European Union is moving towards greater restrictions. Although these restrictions are frequently justified as necessary in the war on terror, there is little evidence to suggest that these moves will actually have any impact on terrorism or make European societies safer. Indeed, there is more evidence to suggest that they may lead to increased alienation and disillusionment amongst Muslim minorities.

10. Same question for the Middle East - do you see it liberalizing and allowing more dissent or is it become more dictatorial?

The Middle East has gradually become more authoritarian in recent years. The recent elections in Egypt show that any changes are largely cosmetic. There were strict limitations on who could run in the elections, intimidation of those who chose to take part and many of the opposition politicians were imprisoned. Although western governments state that they are in favour of representative government in the Muslim world, they continue to support brutal dictators who rule with an iron fist.

11. What do you think about the Iranian nuclear program and the Western response to it?

The attitude towards Iran’s nuclear programme is further evidence of the hypocrisy of the USA and UK.

Iran’s stated program of enriching uranium is specifically allowed under the provisions of the NPT, though of course a nuclear weapons program would not be. Consequently while we hear a great deal from western leaders on how various nations such as Iran are violating the provisions of the NPT through unproved covert means, very little is said about their own obligations under Article VI of the aforementioned treaty. Article VI states very clearly what these obligations are, "Each of the Parties to the treaty undertakes to pursue negotiations in good faith on effective measures relating to cessation of the nuclear arms race at an early date and to nuclear disarmament, and on a Treaty on general and complete disarmament under strict and effective international control."

The UK has not taken any significant steps to eliminate its nuclear weapons (currently around 200 operational warheads), despite its obligations, refusing to decommission its own Trident submarine program. This commitment to Trident inevitably clashes with Britain’s claimed support of the NPT. Britain could also rule out plans for future nuclear weapons systems once Trident is decommissioned, but such an undertaking has not been made. Tony Blair claims that tackling weapons of mass destruction is one of the key objectives of British foreign policy, but it seems the UK’s own nuclear arsenal is not part of that agenda.

12. What is your view of the Israel-Arab conflict and peace process?

We completely reject Zionism represented in the form of Israel and Hizb ut-Tahrir, like the majority of Muslim organisations, is opposed to the continued occupation of Palestine by the Israeli State.

The state of Israel is founded upon a land that was taken by force, after its people were driven out, both Muslim and Christian. This is injustice, which can never be accepted from an Islamic perspective, regardless of the race of the perpetrators. In Palestine, Islam is in conflict with Israelis – not in their capacity as Jews who historically had lived alongside Muslims in peace and security for centuries – but in their capacity as occupiers and aggressors.

Can peace and tranquillity ever come to a region that remains occupied by a brutal, apartheid regime which for over fifty years has been a source of bloodshed and instability?

History is testament to the fact that Jews lived with Muslims under the banner of Islam for almost thirteen centuries. Throughout those periods Jews used to have the same high standard of living as the Muslims did. They enjoyed equal rights, prosperity, happiness, tranquillity and security. Hizb ut-Tahrir’s aspiration is to see this situation emerge again via the return of the Islamic Khilafah [Caliphate].

13. What do you think about the Anglo-American invasion of Iraq?

We strongly opposed the military intervention by the USA and Britain in Iraq, and urged regimes in the Muslim world not to extend any assistance to the invasion and occupation of Iraq. In an interview prior to the Iraq war I said that, "Saddam Hussein is a tyrant and many of our members have been tortured in his jails for opposing him. But we don’t want an Iraqi version of Hamid Karzai, a subservient and loyal puppet who will facilitate the harvesting of America’s interests from the region, including the vast oil reserves of the Middle East."

As for the current situation, although there have been elections in Iraq, not every election is a legitimate instrument of representative government. An election cannot be legitimate when it is conducted under foreign occupation; when the country is nominally ruled by, and the election will be officially run by, a puppet government put and kept in place by the occupying army and the election will be under the ultimate control of the occupying army; when war is raging extensively enough to prevent participation by much of the population; and when the election is designed to choose a new assembly responsible for drafting a constitution and selecting a government that will continue to function under the conditions of military occupation. This was the reason given by the US government for not recognising elections in Lebanon whilst Syrian troops were present.

Our view is that Western nations and the Muslim World are at a historic crossroads. The War on Terror has cast the problematic relationship between the West and the Muslim world in the harshest possible light, putting at stake future stability. Either Western governments can continue their foreign policy that seeks to exploit the resources of the Muslim world and supports brutal dictators who oppress their populations, or people in the West can demand they remove their support for these dictators, allowing the people of the region to choose their own political destiny, free from foreign intervention. Bush and Blair’s liberal imperialism is widening the gulf between the Western and the Muslim world that would see Britain, the USA and others entrenched in the anarchy of Iraq and Afghanistan for decades. Their vision is both immoral and dangerous to the world. An alternative path to this outdated vision of empire, colonialism and exploitation must be realised.

Our vision is the future for the Muslim world - that allows the Muslim world to end dictatorships and govern itself justly, under a Caliphate system - bringing an accountable, elected government, justice and stability to the region, and a system that will end racism and tensions between Muslims, Christians and Jews. It is a system of government that has massive popular support in the Muslim world.

We realise it is an important duty, at a time when many are seeking to widen the divide, to communicate to the people of the West the true reality of Islam and the struggles in the Muslim world, and to enhance understanding of this very different, yet valid, worldview. It is with this aim that we invite people of all opinions and faiths to an open and sincere dialogue on the most critical debate of our time. It remains only for others to sincerely engage also.

David Storobin is a New York lawyer who received Juris Doctor (J.D.) degree from Rutgers University School of Law. His Master’s Thesis (M.A. - Comparative Politics) deals with the historical causes for the rise of Islamic fundamentalism. He is also currently on the Board of Directors of the Ibn Khaldun Center for International Research (www.centroik.ufm.edu.gt) at the University of Francisco Marroquin in Guatemala. He’s been interviewed on radio and cited in books as a political expert.
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