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Islamic Radicalism under the Cover of Political Pragmatism

The year 2005 appeared to mark a radicalization of the Islamic Liberation Party (Hizb al-Tahrir al-Islami – HT), resulting in a wave of arrests of its members in numerous countries around the world. Arrests were made inJordan,Syria,Turkey,Kyrgyzstan, andUzbekistan. The alleged radicalization of HT has found expression in several significant incidents that occurred in 2005: attempts at political subversion by HT members in both Kyrgyzstan (March 25) and Uzbekistan (May 13); the April 15 declaration by Sheikh ‘Issam ‘Amayra, one of the senior members of HT in Jerusalem, calling on Danish Muslims to embark on a militant Jihad in order to establish an Islamic Caliphate that will spread throughout Scandinavia; and the September 2 declaration by senior officials in HT’s Jordanian branch calling for a militant Jihad against the West, primarily the United States (“the end of American tyranny will be accomplished by the hands of the Muslims”) and Israel (“its end is a ‘simple task’ and its existence is conditioned on Western interference and the ‘betrayal’ of Muslim leaders”).[2]

A review of HT’s activities and its leaders’ declarations throughout the past year showed that there was not an actual organizational radicalization, but rather a “deviation” by individual members or branches from al-Nabhani’s stated platform of HT’s leadership, which espouses the establishment of the Islamic Caliphate through Islamic Da‘wa (propaganda) prior to any implementation of a militant Jihad (holy war). The Party leadership has not denounced this “deviation”. On the contrary, it viewed such a “deviation” as a necessary avenue for its members to vent their frustration.[3]

During 2006, HT has maintained its traditional activities around the world, which included demonstrations, press conferences, and mass protests. These activities were accompanied by general incitement against the West, including labeling President Bush a “deceiver” (Dajjal – synonym for the devil); denouncement of the American and British presence on Islamic soil (especially Iraq); rejection of Israel’s right to exist; denouncement of the secular Arab regimes; and calling for the establishment of the Islamic Caliphate on the ruins of these regimes. One should note the mass demonstration organized by HT at the al-Aqsa Mosque yard on March 3,2006, inmemory of the destruction of the Ottoman Caliphate in 1924 by Mustafa Kemal (Atatürk). During the demonstration, which also protested against the published caricatures of the prophet Muhammad, participants displayed various signs such as: “The Caliphate is coming, with Allah’s permission. It will teach those who desecrate Muslims’ sanctities lessons they will never forget”; “Profaning the Koran and insulting its messenger, may Allah pray for him and give him peace. Would someone dare do it under the rule of the Caliphate?”; “The humiliation of Islam is the result of the concept of freedom. Discard this moldy idea”; “Immediately cut your relations with all countries which insulted Islam and its messenger and abandon them with no exception”; “You boycott your enemies and your rulers remain loyal to them. Topple them”. In the meantime, HT continued to distribute its al-Wa‘i magazine in mosques, Islamic centers and at private gatherings. Following the activities mentioned above, arrests continued against members of HT around the world, particularly in Jordan and Syria, where the regimes viewed HT’s calls for their overthrow as an existential threat.[4]

Notwithstanding the narrowing of its worldwide activities, HT achieved a significant achievement in the Lebanese arena in 2006. On May 11, the Lebanese Interior Ministry departed from most other Middle Eastern countries by legalizing (decision 182/AD) HT’s activities in Lebanon. In a press conference held by HT’s media office in Beirut on May19, inresponse to the Lebanese government’s decision, senior HT members discussed the party’s aims, objectives, and vision of establishing the Islamic Caliphate on Islamic soil. The press conference indicated a link between the Sunni HT and the Shiite Hizbullah, whose members were in attendance. Among them were senior figures such as ‘Abd al-Majeed ‘Ammar, the envoy for Secretary-General Hasan Nasrallah, who also serves as a member Hizbullah’s political bureau, and Abu ‘Ali As‘ad, the representative of Muhammad Hussein Fadlallah, the spiritual leader and cofounder of Hizbullah.[5]

The Islamic Caliphate Will Lead the Jihad Against the Infidels

According to its stated platform, HT has three explicit goals. Firstly, the organization seeks to reinstitute the Islamic Caliphate that was destroyed in 1924 by Mustafa Kemal (Atatürk). HT also favors the implementation of Muslim religious law (Shari‘a). Lastly, HT would like to “liberate” the Islamic Ummah from foreign influence (in economic, social, military, cultural, and political terms). The establishment of the Caliphate will be achieved through the Islamic Da‘wa that will call upon Muslims to repent and live their lives according to Shari‘a. The Caliphate will be led by a Caliph appointed by the Muslim community, who will swear allegiance to him. The Caliph will rule according to the Koran and the Sunnah (the practices of the Prophet that have become sanctified customs) and he will be obligated to disseminate Islam through Da‘wa and militant Jihad.[6] The establishment of the Islamic Caliphate is of the utmost importance for HT, and from its point of view, all Muslims that died since the destruction of the Ottoman Caliphate died a Jahili (ignorant) death, since they did not fulfill their religious obligation as Muslims in swearing allegiance to the Caliph.[7]

HT refuses to take an active role in the militant Jihad prior to the establishment of the Islamic Caliphate. According to HT, its participation in Jihad is dependent on the occurrence of one of the two following scenarios. The first concerns the defensive Jihad (Jihad al-daf‘), in which the individual obligation lies upon Muslims living in the domain of Islam (Dar al-Islam) to defend its territory from the attacking infidels. Based on the principle of the defensive Jihad, HT claims that in case the infidels attack an Islamic state (not to be confused with a Muslim state, in which a Muslim regime does not implement Shari‘a or/and cooperates with the West, e.g. Egypt and Iraq), members of the party who reside in that state must fight and repel the enemy through militant Jihad. The second scenario concerns the offensive Jihad (Jihad al-Talab), in which Muslims initiate an attack against the domain of the enemy (Dar al-Harb), also known as the domain of infidelity (Dar al-Kufr). That is, when the enemy is not gathering in the “frontier cities” and threatening to attack the domain of Islam, the Caliph must send, at least annually, a group of believers to fulfill a militant Jihad against the infidels’ countries in order to expand the territory of Allah and raise its glory. This group’s actions exempt the collective (a collective obligation). Based on the concept of offensive Jihad, HT claims that anywhere a Caliph declares[8] a militant Jihad to expand the territory of Allah and raise his glory, members of HT will contribute as much as possible. [9]

However, since at present there is neither a true Islamic state under attack, nor is there an Islamic state headed by a Caliph, members of the party are not obligated to participate in militant Jihad.[10] In other words, HT does not reject the principle of militant Jihad, but rather postpones it until the establishment of the Islamic Caliphate. Until then, it will prepare the ground and recruit supporters through Da‘wa, while utilizing radical Islamic terminology.

Radical Islamic Terminology as Used by a Non-Violent Religious-Political Party

Although representing a non-violent organization that defers the use of militant Jihad until the establishment of the Islamic Caliphate, HT does not hesitate to use the same radical Islamic terminology commonly utilized by radical Islamic organizations, such as al-Qa‘ida, Hizbullah, Hamas and many others. In this regard, HT is no less of a contributor to worldwide Islamic terrorism.

Two major events that occurred in the beginning of 2006 help to illustrate this point: the publishing of caricatures of the Prophet Muhammad in the Norwegian newspaper Magazinet on January 10, 2006, and the victory of Hamas in the Palestinian Legislative Council Elections on January 25, 2006.

HT denounced the publishing of the caricatures of the Prophet Muhammad in the Norwegian newspaper Magazinet stating, “their reprinting (in the Western newspapers) in the name of ‘freedom of speech’ has once again illustrated that the ‘war on terror’ means it is open season on Muslims and Islam.” Dr. Imran Wahid, a media representative of HT Britain, viewed the caricatures’ publication as an anti-religious maneuver commonly adopted by secular liberal societies that view the insult of religious societies – whether Muslim, Christian, or Jewish – as perfectly acceptable. Wahid, whose statement represents the stance of the HT leadership, argued that history has proven that only the Islamic Caliphate can guarantee that Muslims and non-Muslims alike will be protected from such wanton disrespect.[11] Hasan al-Hasan, deputy chairman of HT Britain, depicted the printing of the caricatures as a “false link in a wicked worldwide string whose goal is to humiliate Muslims, as seen in the desecration of the Koran in Guantanamo, the disrespect of Muslims in secret and open prisons, and the destruction of mosques.” Al-Hasan argued that such acts occurred because “the large majority of the Western public, specifically the Europeans – and among them the Scandinavians – is Atheist with no (holy) book and no religion and it sanctifies materialism, pleasure and egotism.”[12]

On February 3, HT’s branch in Bangladesh organized a mass rally outside of the national mosque in Dhaka City immediately following Friday prayer. The protest was led by Muhi al-Din Ahmad, the chief coordinator and spokesman of HT in Bangladesh, who used radical religious terminology in denouncing the publication of the caricatures. “The terrorist West is conducting a crusade against Islam in the name of free speech and war on terror,” he said, adding that, “the disbelievers around the world are joining ranks to attack Islam, abuse the Koran, insult the Prophet, kill and torture Muslims and loot the resources of the Muslim Ummah.” Nor did Ahmad spare the Muslim leaders, who he characterized as “corrupt” and “agents of the West,” arguing that they failed to defend Muslims and the Islamic faith.[13]

At the same time, HT did not violate its self-imposed image of a non-violent party, an image which its members stressed in their interviews with the media.[14] HT acted on four main levels: activity on the diplomatic front, organization and encouragement of popular protests, protest and defiant propaganda via the Internet, and the initiation of social gatherings. On all four levels HT presented the caricatures’ publishing as part of a long-term religious confrontation between Islam and the West.

The second example of HT’s use of radical Islamic terminology concerns the Hamas victory in the Palestinian Legislative Council elections. On January 28, 2006, three days after the elections, HT published a manifesto under the title Controlling the Regime in the Shadow of the Occupation – a Trap that Leads to Recognition of Israel. The manifesto argued that the rise of Hamas to power was premeditated by the “imperialist infidels” (meaning the United States and the European Union) in conjunction with Abu Mazen and with Israel in order to cause Hamas to recognize Israel. Hamas, according to HT, fell into the trap. Furthermore, the manifesto called to maintain the “current state of war” against Israel as long as there is no Caliph who can liberate Palestine, and emphasized that the comprehensive liberation of Palestine will be attained only after the establishment of the Islamic Caliphate and under the flag of Islam. The manifesto went on to note that “the day will come when the knights of Islam will follow the paths of the greats (military leaders) that conquered Palestine, liberated it and protected it. They will put an end to the Jewish entity and will return all of Palestine to the bosom of Islam. Those who negotiated with the Jews and recognized their state, even on a sliver of Palestine, will be wrapped in disgrace in this lifetime and will suffer torments in the afterlife.” [15]

In the manifesto published on May 7, 2006, on the Internet website of HT France, it was written that “it is not possible to wait for the United States, the chief supporter of Israel, and Europe to find the utopian peace plan. Peace will not exist as long as Israel exists. The Muslims are the masters of their own destiny with the help of Allah. The Islamic state will be announced anew, Muhammad’s army will rise anew and will liberate Palestine.”[16]

During the 9th Caliphate Conference organized by HT on May 4,2006, inBir Zeit University, north of Ramallah in the Palestinian Authority, Ahmad al-Khateeb, HT’s spokesman in the northern West Bank, argued that the United States is implementing a policy of “embracement” vis-à-vis the various Islamic movements and their participation in Arab and Muslim governments in order to delay as much as possible the establishment of the Islamic Caliphate, to spread the recognition of Israel and to fortify the Jews in Palestine. According to al-Khateeb, the Muslims must be aware of the conspiracy and understand that the only way to liberate Palestine is to “establish an Islamic state that will motivate the Muslim armies towards liberating the al-Aqsa Mosque and the rest of Palestine.”[17]

HT’s radical Islamic terminology is obvious vis-à-vis Israel and the Israeli-Arab conflict, which it views as a religious conflict between Muslims and Jews. HT advocates the “liberation of Palestine” through militant Jihad and opposes any political agreement with Israel (“the Jewish entity”), whose existence it does not recognize. This approach is a result from its absolute negative perception of Jews, which is based vastly on the negative portrayal of the Jews in the Koran. For example, in The Family of ‘Imran chapter (Surah) Muslims are warned about the “People of the Book” (Jews and Christians), who distorted their holy books and are likely to turn Muslims into infidels.[18]

Summary and Conclusions

Throughout its 53 years of existence, HT has taken part in several failed attempts at political subversion,[19] the most significant of which took place in 2005. However, as aforementioned, it was mainly a result of local initiatives, and HT’s leadership continues to adhere to a non-violent platform, outlined by the founder Taqi al-din al-Nabhani, towards establishing the Islamic Caliphate. Since at this point in time an Islamic Caliphate is no more than a glimmer of hope, it can be assumed that HT will continue to operate on three main levels: the first level focuses on strengthening the religious faith; The second level advocates continuing a venomous Islamic propaganda campaign against the West, including Israel, and against the “infidel” Muslim rulers, who are accused of abandoning the Islamic religion and serving as a shield for Israel; The third level supports the organization of conferences, marches and political demonstrations around the world in order to disseminate HT’s ideology and recruit supporters to its ranks.

Notwithstanding, the claim made by HT that it is a moderate party which communicates its messages using non-violent methods has the same hypocrisy that HT commonly attributes to the West. On the one hand HT calls for peaceful protests, public discussions, religious tolerance and the establishment of an Islamic Caliphate that will provide security and respect for all religions. On the other hand, it does not hesitate to use radical Islamic terminology which is likely to incite violent religious confrontation between Muslims and their non-Muslim neighbors. HT cannot hide behind the integument of a moderate party while characterizing the publication of the caricatures of the Prophet Muhammad as “part of the West’s terrorist crusade against Islam!”, depicting the West as “an infidel that seeks to assault Islam and the Koran, insult the Prophet Muhammad, kill and torture Muslims,” describing the war on terror as “the West’s open season on Muslims and Islam,” labeling Muslim leaders as “corrupt” and as “agents of the West” who failed to protect Muslims and the religion of Islam, calling for the destruction of Israel, and claiming that a real peace in the Middle East will not exist as long as Israel exists. Such radical Islamic terminology is no different from the terminology used by Islamic terrorist groups like al-Qa‘ida, Hizbullah, Hamas and the Egyptian al-Jihad. Thus, HT’s contribution to Islamic terrorism is no less than the other Islamic terrorist groups who use violent means. In addition, the combination of HT’s worldview and its modus operandi place its members and supporters, especially since the September 11 terrorist attacks, as a potential source of recruitment for radical Islamic terrorist organizations, mainly al-Qai‘da.

The argument by Hasan al-Hasan, deputy chairman of HT Britain, that the party is unjustly forbidden from operating in many countries, despite the fact that it “hasn’t perpetrated even one act of terror,”[20] is no different from that of the inciting Imam who influences a Muslim to perpetrate a terrorist attack, yet argues that his hands are clean since he is not the one who committed the act. For the same reason, the verbal attack made by Dr. ‘Imran Wahid, a media representative of HT Britain, on Zeyno Baran from the Hudson institute in Washington who claimed that HT serves as a conveyor belt for terrorists, is baseless. It is advised that those same HT members would give it some thought before they blame others for using “tired claims that lack any intellectual foundation.”[21]




[1] Hizb al-Tahrir al-Islami is a political Islamic movement founded in1953 inEast Jerusalem by the “Qadi” Taqi al-din al-Nabhani, an appeals judge and senior religious figure who split off from the “Muslim Brotherhood” movement. In 1977, after the death of al-Nabhani, ‘Abd al-Qadim Zalum, a Palestinian resident of Hebron and one of the founders of the Party, took over as the head of the organization, a position he held until his death in April 2003. His successor is ‘Ata’ Abu al-Rishta, a Jordanian national of Palestinian origin who previously served as the Party’s spokesman for fifteen years.

[2] “al-’Amn al-Urduni ya‘taqilu sab‘a min a‘da’ Hizb al-Tahrir” (“The Jordanian security service arrest 7 members of Hizb al-Tahrir”), al-Jazeera, (Septembr 6, 2005). Internet:; “‘Amaliyat ’i‘tiqal li-Hizb al-Tahrir fi Istanbul” (“Arrest against Hizb al-Tahrir in Istanbul”), The Palestinian Information Center’s forum (Hamas, PA), (December 26, 2005). Internet:; “Hizb ut-Tahrir Britian Condemns Tony Blair’s Announcement to Ban the Party”, (August 5, 2005). Internet:; Jonathan D., Halevi, “Hizb Al-Tahrir’s Call for Reviving the Caliphate”, OrgDocumentation, (March 4, 2006). Internet:; “Uzbek Regime Jails Further 41 for Andijan Massacre While Perpetrators Remain Free”, HT Britain, (December 22, 2005). Internet:

[3] “Hizb ut-Tahrir Britian Condemns Tony Blair’s Announcement to Ban the Party”, (August 5, 2005). Internet:; “The Jordanian security service arrested 7 members of Hizb al-Tahrir”, Ibid; The Da‘wa, in its modern and well-known version, is translated as an “invitation, call, propaganda or judicial indictment”. Words glorifying the Da‘wa, in the meaning of calling to join Islam, and its priority as a preliminary stage to embarking on a Jihad against “infidels” can be found in the Koran and in the Hadith. With the development of the political idea in Islam and especially as a result of the rise of the Isma‘ili Fatimids, who ruled over large parts of the Muslim world from early 10th century until the late 12th century and developed a complete systematic institution surround the Da‘wa, the Da‘wa was considered one of the primary means of establishing the Islamic “Dawla” (state). Over the course of time the Da‘wa turned into a main ingredient in Islamic political thought in regards to establishing new regimes or new dynasties, and the expression that “every revolution has its own Da‘wa” is well rooted in the terminology of the Islamic revolution.

[4] “al-’Amn al-Urduni ya‘taqilu ‘asharah a‘da’ min Hizb al-Tahrir” (“The Jordanian security service arrest 10 members of Hizb al-Tahrir”),al-Jazeera, (January 12, 2006). Internet:; “’i‘tiqalat bi-shubhat al-’intima’ li-Hizb al-Tahrir” (“Arrests in suspicion of being affiliated with Hizb al-Tahrir”), Syrian Human Rights Committee, (May 16, 2006). Internet:; Halevi, Ibid; Hasan, al-Hasan, “Mashaahid mu’allimah” (“painful visions”), ArabRenewal, (May 8, 2006). Internet:; “Photo: More than 40,000 members of the Hizbut Tahrir Indonesia Advocate Caliphate”, Khilafah (Hizb al-Tahrir), (March 12, 2006). Internet:; “Press Statement: The Jordanian government undertook, via their oppression forces, a campaign of arrests against the Shabab of Hizb ut-Tahrir”, Khilafah (Hizb al-Tahrir), (January 31, 2006). Internet:

[5] ‘Ali, al-Amin, “Hizb al-Tahrir fi awwal thuhur ‘alani li-qiyadatihi fi lubnaan” (“Hizb al-Tahrir leadership’s first public appearance in Lebanon”), al-Balad (Beirut), (May 20, 2006). Internet:; “Hizb ut-Tahrir to hold Beirut Press Conference 4pm 19/05/06”, Khilafah (Hizb al-Tahrir), (May 20, 2006). Inernet:

[6] Taqiuddin, an-Nabhani, Structuring of a Party, (London: Al-Khilafah Publications, 2001), p. 11; “The Reasons for the Establishment of Hizb ut-Tahrir”. Internet:, (November 6, 2005).

[7], (November 6, 2005).

[8] This declaration comes from his authority as a stand-in messenger of Allah.

[9] “The Reasons for the Establishment of Hizb ut-Tahrir”, Ibid; Dr. Sa‘ud Bin ‘Abdallah al-Fanisaan, former Dean of the Shari‘a College at Imam Muhammad Bin Sa‘ud Islamic University in Saudi Arabia, argued that fulfilling the offensive Jihad was not obliged by Muslim law. According to al-Fanisaan, it depends on the Islamic Nation’s strength at the given time. He claimed that, since the beginning of the current millennium, the Islamic Nation has found itself in a position of weakness. Therefore, the Muslims must follow the verses of the Koran, which call for patience and should not fulfill the offensive Jihad, see, sa‘ud Bin ‘Abdallah, al-Fanisaan, “Jihad al-Talab wa-Jihad al-daf‘” (“The offensive Jihad and the defensive Jihad”), al-Islam al-Yawm, (August 4, 2002). Internet:, and also, R. K. Pruthi, “Types of Jihad”, Encyclopaedia of Jihad, Vol. 1, (New Delhi: Anmol Publications PVT. LTD, 2002), pp. 58-59, and also, Rudolph, Peters, Jihad in Classical and Modern Islam, (Princeton: Markus Wiener Publishers, 1996), pp. 3-4.

[10] “The Reasons for the Establishment of Hizb ut-Tahrir”, Ibid.

[11] “Hizb ut-Tahrir Britain Comments on European Newspaper Cartoons”, Khilafah (Hizb al-Tahrir), (February 1, 2006). Internet:

[12] Hasan, al-Hasan, “Madha dahahum, al-Nabi ‘Irhabi’! uffan lahum” (“What Happened to Them, The Prophet ‘Terrorist’! Ah to Them”), Middle East Online, (February 6, 2006). Internet:

[13] “Attack on the Prophet (SAW) is part of the terrorist West’s crusade against Islam!”, Office of the Chief Coordinator and Official Spokesman of Hizb ut-Tahrir in Bangladesh (Press Release), (February 3, 2006); “Hizb ut-Tahrir Bangladesh announces protest march to the Danish embassy”, Office of the Chief Coordinator and Official Spokesman of Hizb ut-Tahrir in Bangladesh (Press Release), (February 4, 2006).

[14] Taji, Mustafa, “Religious discord”, BBC Sunday AM, (February 5, 2006). Internet:

[15] “Tawalli al-Sulta fi dhill al-’ihtilaal – Sharak yaqud al-waqi‘ fihi ila al-’i‘tiraf bi-dawlat Yahud” (“Taking control over the regime in the shadow of the occupation – A trap which leads to the recognition of the Jewish state”), al-Nahda (London), (February 13, 2006). Internet:; The conspiracy theory is discussed in the smallest details also in ‘Abdullah ‘Abd al-Rahman’s article that was published on March 2, 2006 on the website of HT’s media office. The article also blamed Muhammad Dahlan and the Egyptian “profiteers” as having a hand in the conspiracy, see, ‘Abdallah, ‘Abd al-Rahman, “Adwa’ ‘ala fawz Hamas fi al-intikhabat al-tashri‘iyya al-falastiniyya wa-taklifuha bi-tashkil al-hukumah al-muqbilah” (“Spotlight on Hamas’ win in the Palestinian Legislative Council elections and its framing of the next government”), Media Office of Hizb-ut-Tahrir, (March 2, 2006). Internet:

[16] “La Solution PourLa Palestine” (“The Solution forPalestine”), al-Badil (HT France), (May 7, 2006). Internet:

[17] Ahmad, Salim, “Hizb al-Tahrir ya‘qudu mu’tamar al-Khilafah al-tasi‘ – ‘ala abwab al-Khilafah” (“Hizb al-Tahrir sets the ninth Caliphate conference – on the verge of the Caliphate”), al-Quds (Jerusalem), (May 4, 2006), p. 4.

[18] “The Reasons for the Establishment of Hizb ut-Tahrir”, Ibid; “The summit of Sharm El-Sheikh is a vital stage in a series of humiliating concessions”. Internet:, (February 8, 2005).

[19] Jonathan, Fighel, “Jihad inUzbekistan”, ICT Articles, (March 30, 2004). Internet:

[20] al-Hasan, Ibid.

[21] Imran, Waheed, “Re: Fighting the War of Ideas, Foreign Affairs, Volume 84, Number 6”, HT Britain, (May 17, 2006); Imran, Waheed and Sajjad Khan, “Fighting the War of Ideas – Revisited”, HT Britain, (May 17, 2006); “Who is Zeyno Baran?”, HT Britain, (May 17, 2006); Zeyno, Baran, “Fighting the War of Ideas”, Foreign Affairs, (November/December 2005). Internet: