Palestinian group sounds like Al Qaeda but forgoes violence
Hizb ut-Tahrir moves to fill void left by Hamas in the West Bank
(Page 2 of 3)
"We accept only Islam in politics and in vision. And we have a powerful secret: to keep out Western ideas and keep to a pure Islamic system," Professor Jabari, who teaches chemical engineering at a college here, explains in an interview in his sprawling, freshly furnished home here in Hebron, a conservative city where Hizb ut-Tahrir's support appears to be among the strongest in the West Bank.Skip to next paragraph
Subscribe Today to the Monitor
The group is gaining supporters in other cities, too. In August, a major rally in Ramallah drew 20,000 people, according to official estimates. In the same week, demonstrations were held in other Muslim countries where the group is popular, with some 80,000-100,000 people attending a massive gathering in Jakarta, Indonesia. The rallies were called to coincide with the anniversary of the official 1924 dissolution of the caliphate – carried out by Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, the father of modern Turkey – following the breakup of the Ottoman Empire.
Many analysts see the demonstration against the Annapolis peace conference in November, during which Palestinian police killed Hisham al-Baradi, one of Hizb ut-Tahrir's activists, as a major turning point. Mr. Baradi has since been deemed a shahid, or martyr, allowing the group to ratchet up its rhetoric as a group persecuted not just by Israel, but by Palestinian authorities as well.
"We were attacked by the oppressive Palestinian police forces, and one our members was killed," says Mr. Jabari, adding that several hundred of their activists were also arrested in recent months, most of them later released. "They must be afraid of us," he concludes.
No peace talks with Israel
Additional evidence of this, he says, is the arrest of about 30 Hizb ut-Tahrir activists while President Bush was speaking alongside Mr. Abbas in Ramallah on Jan. 10. The activists handed out fliers decrying Bush, Abbas, and any Palestinian working towards a two-state solution alongside Israel. Instead, the group argues that the entire umma, or Islamic nation, should unite to overthrow the Middle East's many Western-backed states, emirates, and kingdoms – none of which, they say, are in line with Muslim ideals.
One of those who was arrested was Abdul-Nasser al-Baradi, the older brother of Hisham, who was killed in November. While Hisham was alive, he convinced Abdul-Nasser of Hizb ut-Tahrir's ideas, the elder Baradi says in an interview at his late brother's home, which he visits daily to help his brother's two surviving widows and seven children. One of them is Izz ed-Din, 14, who says that Hizb ut-Tahrir has the key to succeeding where democracy – which the group openly rejects – has failed.
"I'll give you an example," the high school freshman says. "Islam says if you steal, the punishment is to have your hand cut off. A democratic regime might not come to such a conclusion."
Hizb ut-Tahrir's leaders here say that other Islamic strictures would apply: they would ban the sell of alcohol in public, for example, but non-Muslims would be free to drink it in private and maintain their own religious practices at home.
Hizb ut-Tahrir means "Party of Liberation." It is an Islamist political movement with a draft constitution that includes 186 articles.
What are its goals? To establish an Islamic state, regulated by sharia law, a legal system based on Muslim principles that governs most aspects of society. It advocates for economic and social justice and maintains a nonviolent approach, which has grown its grass-roots appeal in countries with large Muslim populations and poor socioeconomic conditions.
When was it created? It was founded in 1952 in Jerusalem by Muhammad Taqiuddin an Nabhani al-Falsatan (1909 – 1977), an exiled Palestinian judge. It was quickly banned in Jordan.
Where are its supporters? Supporters may be found throughout the Middle East, Central Asia, Southeast Asia, and other areas with large Muslim populations, including the US and Europe.
What is its status? Critics claim that it fosters extremism, defenders say it is a haven for those seeking alternatives from Western or capitalist societies through political means. The group is banned in many countries, including Egypt and much of the Middle East, Germany, Pakistan, and Russia. It also came under investigation in Britain after the London bombings in July of 2005.
Source: Brookings Institution, Hizb-ut-Tahrir web site (www.hizbuttahrir.org), news reports
Compiled by Leigh Montgomery