A Non-Violent Jihadi is Still a Jihadi

How Hizb ut-Tahrir spreads extremism around the world.

The British media is reporting that a teacher in the London School of Economics’ government department is a member of Hizb ut-Tahrir, an extremist group seeking to internally overthrow democracy and capitalism and replace it with Sharia Law. Unfortunately, the violence of groups like Al-Qaeda has caused HUT and groups like it to look less extreme by comparison and so they are not receiving the attention they deserve.

The revelation that an HUT member teaches students in a London university and preaches at a mosque attended by students is exposing the reach of the group. The London Times reports that at least two teachers in London are members or supporters of HUT. This follows an earlier report that resulted in a political scuffle in November when David Cameron, the leader of the opposition Conservative Party, alleged that the government had provided funds to fight extremism to two schools run by the Islamic Shakyhsiyah Foundation, which he said was linked to HUT.

Secretary of State for Children, Schools and Families Ed Balls calls the accusation a lie, saying that the two schools were inspected in 2007 and were not found to be teaching extremism.  The “proprietor” of the school in Slough is the wife of a HUT spokesman and the head teacher is a member of the group who expressed opposition to the “corrupt Western concepts of materialism and freedom” in her journal.  The second school in Haringey has had its funding suspended.

Balls is also under fire for not fixing a loophole that allows some Muslim schools to physically discipline their children.  The ban on smacking only applies to schools where students receive 12.5 hours of education or more per week, and these schools only operate at night and on weekends. When criticized over the issue, Balls’ spokesperson denied that child abuse was taking place and said if he outlawed the Muslim schools from smacking, he’d have to also have to ban relatives from doing it as well.

Attention was also brought to the HUT in the United Kingdom in November when Azad Ali, a Muslim who has defended the group and praised Abdullah Azzam, the Muslim Brotherhood mentor of Osama Bin Laden, was chosen to serve as an advisor to the Director of Public Prosecutions. On his blog, he wrote that “There is no respite from the terrorist slaughter machine of the Zionist state of Israel. America and our own government have given much fuel to this machine and in fact helped to build the killing machine.”

Hizb ut-Tahrir also has a significant presence in the United States. On July 19, 2009, the American branch of the group held its Khalifah Conference in Oak Lawn, Illinois and reports say it was attended by between 300 and 700 people. Its theme was “The Fall of Capitalism & The Rise of Islam.” The Investigative Project on Terrorism has footage of one imam that spoke at the conference saying that the American Constitution should be replaced by Sharia Law.

Although HUT declares itself to be non-violent and against terrorism, a former member of the organization has produced a documentary that shows leaders of the group supporting suicide bombings against Coalition forces in Iraq as well as Israel, whose right to exist they refuse to recognize. It has also praised jihad in places like Kashmir and Chechnya.

The former leader of HUT wrote in his book that anyone running a government not based on Islam should “either retract or be killed ... even if this led to several years of fighting and even if it led to the killing of millions of Muslims and to the martyrdom of millions of believers." FoxNews.com has also reported on a HUT leaflet from March 2009 that called for declaring “a state of war against America” and the group’s official stance justifying hijackings if the plane belongs to a country at war with Muslims.

Several members of HUT have gone on to become terrorists, including Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, so while the group may not train or dispatch terrorists, its extremism certainly motivates some recruits to act in violent ways. Although the two sides disagree on some methods, they are united in their goals.

Al-Qaeda has condemned HUT and the group has condemned the September 11, 2001 attacks, although it is unclear whether the group believes Bin Laden was behind the event or Zionist conspirators in the American government were, as many extremists believe. The group’s leader in Britain said after the 2005 bombings in London that he would “condemn what happened in London only after there is the promise from Western leaders to condemn what they have done in Falluja and other parts of Iraq and in Afghanistan.”  It should also be mentioned that Sheikh Omar Bakri Mohamed, the founder of the Al-Muhajiroun terrorist group allied to Al-Qaeda, helped set up the HUT’s branch in Britain before he was expelled from the group.

The ranks of HUT should be expected to grow. As Al-Qaeda’s prestige wanes due to its lack of success, other groups offering different strategies for waging jihad are going to gain in popularity. Muslims that share the goal of restoring the Caliphate and spreading Sharia-based governance but have grown disenchanted with Al-Qaeda’s means will find an ally they can sympathize with in HUT. Some might try to downplay the significance of HUT due to their relatively benign pursuit of jihad against the West, but they will only be rewarding the group’s more intelligent campaign for the same goal.