Hizb ut Tahrir in UK announces "Islam is coming back" - HUT in Germany appeals government ban
Hizb ut Tahrir and the Islamo facists in Germany
November 22, 2004
MIM: Hizb ut Tahrir (The Party of Liberation), was banned last year in Germany and is now appealing the decision in court. Mohammed Atta and several of the 9/11 hijackers were linked to a HUT cell in Hamburg and the group is active in the UK where it appears to be attracting people who would have joined Al Muhajiroun, which issued a press release to announce the group was 'disbanding' for it's members to go freelance'. The article below appeared in the Guardian newspaper and contains background information on the groups origin and founders in the UK -Omar Bakri Muhammed who went on to form Al Muhajiroun. Abu Hamza Al Masri, who is presently in jail in the UK awaiting trial on terrorism related charges was also a long time associate of Bakri and HUT. The group regularly engages in acts of terrorism in parts of what used to be Russia. Members have been linked to recent murders and bombings in Uzbekistan and other provinces .
Our vision is to cultivate a Muslim community that lives by Islam in thought and deed, adhering to the Shari'ah rules and nurturing a strong identity as Muslims. Our vision is this community stands as a model and an example to the wider society, making the basis of this relationship the carrying of the Islamic da'wa. Furthermore, our community needs to be aware of her destiny as an integral part of the global ummah, taking up the call for the return of the Khilafah and the unification of this ummah internationally.
We must work intelligently in the west, by not compromising Islam, but rather presenting a convincing argument in the west against western imperialism and interference in the Muslim world. Raising the call for the Muslims to own their political destiny and in turn building a support base in the west for the return of the Khilafah state.
If our community puts our resources together then we can change attitudes, inspire the society and contribute to the return of Islam internationally.
The east London hall echoes to the sound of the speaker's voice: "They want us to redefine Islam to fit the agenda of the west," he intones, and the audience murmurs. "Islam is going to be political, no matter how hard they try. Islam itself is political. Allah has not remained silent when it comes to political matters."
The speaker is a member of Hizb ut Tahrir, the most controversial Islamic group in Britain today. Critics have called for the group to be banned, as it is in Germany, while supporters hail it as the saviour of the Muslim community. Hizb - the name means Party of Liberation in Arabic - is banned throughout the Middle East, and three British men are in jail in Egypt accused of propagating its views. In Uzbekistan, thousands of Hizb members are in jail, and a Russian thinktank has compared the group to al-Qaida.
Eighteen months ago, the group briefly appeared in the public eye when the wife of Omar Sharif, the Briton who launched a failed suicide-bomb [sic] attack in Tel Aviv, was found to have leaflets from the group in her home. Hizb ut Tahrir also has a presence on university campuses, where it has been accused of anti-semitism.
Until recently, the leadership of Hizb was secretive and cautious, reluctant to release details of the scale of its membership, its leadership structure or its funding. One ex-member who spent years with the group says there are probably only 500 members across the country, but the group may have 10 times that number as committed supporters. Hizb's annual conference in Birmingham last year attracted about 8,000, by far the most for a Muslim organisation.
In a sign that the group is changing direction, it has given the Guardian unprecedented access to its leadership. The newspaper has spoken to current and former Hizb members and supporters in London, Derby, Leicester, Birmingham, Nottingham and Manchester in an attempt to piece together the group's motivation and ideology.
The leader of the group, a 28-year-old IT consultant called Jalaluddin Patel, is the first leader in its 18-year history in the UK to speak to the national press. He says Hizb has nothing to hide but will not release membership figures: "It's a genuine security issue. We're unsure about the manner in which western society would treat a group like ours."
Part of the West, Not a Threat
Patel insists that Hizb is no threat to the west, but part of it. But he adds that the west "needs to understand what is really an inevitable matter, and that is that Islam is coming back, the Islamic caliphate is going to be implemented in the world very soon … The Muslim people need to realise that the way in which they will restore a form of dignity and bring civilisation back to the Islamic world is to establish a modern caliphate."
The call to re-establish the caliphate, the single Islamic state that existed for a millennium and a half, until the end of the Ottoman empire in 1924, forms the thrust of the group's message. But its call for Muslims to be strong is not just political; it is also religious: "Secularism has failed the world" declares a Hizb poster.
Bringing the caliphate back will not be easy: at one debate on the future of Iraq, held just off Brick Lane, an American journalist warned the audience that America, China and India would never tolerate an Islamic state "strung like a belt across the world. There would have to be a response."
Hizb's message is too radical to seem immediately threatening. But it is the scale of its ambition that is striking. Hizb appears to be focusing its efforts in Britain on removing Pakistan's President Musharraf, a key ally in the US war on terror. Last month the group led a march of thousands to the Pakistani high commission in London, calling for regime change and declaring "Pakistan Army: why are you silent?"
In Pakistan the security services say they are keeping close watch on Hizb, mindful of the group's links with an educated middle class and fearful of possible links with other, more radical groups.
A Cautious Apporoach
Despite recent moves by the group to open itself up - in March this year, for the first time, Hizb announced the nine people on its executive committee - it remains difficult to join it. Before membership, supporters must be invited to join a study group. Patel dismisses the idea that these study groups brainwash supporters: "If you call brainwashing the imparting of ideas and discourse based on those ideas, then I'm afraid that's what it must be. But fortunately we're not in the business of brainwashing."
At 28, Patel is relatively young to be leading a national group, though he has been involved with Hizb since he was 16. He came to Hizb searching for answers, studied with the group, and became chair of the executive committee at 26. Although reluctant to talk about his own background, it is clear his upbringing was comfortable and not particularly political - he says his father knows he is involved with Hizb but doesn't know he leads it. "He will now."
Hizb often holds public debates with figures from politics or the media. The meetings are usually packed. Across the country the group publishes books and magazines and holds discussion groups trying to galvanise the Muslim community on a variety of issues. But the solution is always the re-establishment of the caliphate.
Hizb is reluctant to say where it gets the money for these activities. Patel says it all comes entirely from donations from members and supporters, gathered as and when needed. No one in the party receives a salary.
Hizb ut Tahrir was formed in Jerusalem in 1953 by a Palestinian judge. Since then, it has expanded across the Middle East and throughout the world, from Indonesia to America. But it is in Britain that the group probably has its strongest presence. Its conferences have attracted thousands of British Muslims.
In Tower Hamlets, east London, Hizb distributed a leaflet opposing the Brick Lane festival last month, arguing that the promotion of "the culture of drinking alcohol, dancing and free-mixing" was not the image the area's Muslim community ought to be projecting.
Meetings - or "circles" - follow the same format, with a speaker from the group expanding on a subject for around 40 minutes. The audience, almost always students and professionals in their 20s and 30s, listen and then pepper the speaker with questions. Some meetings are men- or women-only. At those that are mixed, the women, seated separately from the men, ask the most forceful and detailed questions, usually from beneath a sea of headscarves.
Calling for Regime Change
Although one of the main aims of the group is to forge a strong religious identity for Muslims in Britain, it also believes the wider Muslim world has been ill-served by its rulers. It has openly called for coups against Arab governments to establish more representative leadership. Governments such as Egypt which feel that Hizb is a threat have banned it and arrested its members.
The group came to Britain in 1986, founded by a Syrian called Omar Bakri Muhammed. Bakri remained leader for 10 years until he left to form another, more radical, Islamic group, al-Muhajiroun.
In the mid-1990s, Hizb was a fixture on university campuses, organising societies and debates. Its rhetoric was fierce and angry. Then Hizb went quiet, and now its influence on campus is limited to some Islamic societies or smaller groups. Some maintain it is still [sic] a threat: in March this year a motion proposed by the Union of Jewish Students to the National Union of Students conference banned Hizb from campuses because of alleged anti-semitism.
Last year the German government banned the group for the same reasons and the country's interior minister, Otto Schilly, proposed Britain should follow suit, saying: "It won't do if the same thing is then not banned in a neighbouring country. We have to act in harmony."
Patel calls such accusations misguided. But he does not deny being anti-Israel: "Being anti-Israel is probably a sentiment held by one billion Muslims around the world. It's not unique to the party. A lot of western commentators could be classified as anti-Israel."
On some campuses, the group has renamed itself, using such names as the Ideological Society. Its uncompromising tone, in contrast to the mute moderation of some imams, is a powerful attraction. In cities where it has a strong presence, such as Birmingham and Leicester, some mosques have made it clear that Hizb is unwelcome. "We don't like their ideas at all," said the imam of one of Birmingham's biggest mosques. "They're not Islamic ideas, they're very nationalistic, racist ideas that they've got from somewhere else."
No Depoliticising Islam
Hizb says such criticism is an attempt to depoliticise Islam and warns against seeing political awareness always in the context of angry youth. Hizb offers a worldview that can be easily grasped, a straightforward solution to many of the problems of society. The scope of Hizb - Patel says "every mosque in this country" has members or supporters - has led to worries about its influence. But it is not on the Home Office's list of proscribed organisations, and the Metropolitan police's anti-terrorism branch says it has no evidence of illegal activity.
Critics are most concerned about Hizb in Central Asia, where its brand of political Islam is motivating impoverished Uzbeks against the government of Uzbekistan. In testimony before the US Congress earlier this year, a director of the Nixon Centre, a rightwing thinktank, warned: "Like other Islamist movements, HT's goal is to overthrow secular regimes around the world. Unlike many others, however, HT hopes to achieve this goal peacefully … I think HT, which is not considered a terrorist organisation, is an even more dangerous long-term threat, as it is the elementary school for the ideological training of many other groups."
This is the "conveyor belt for terrorism" argument: the implication is that such an organisation might inspire others. Patel is dismissive: "I think it's a very disingenuous view. The Founding Fathers of America would probably have been called a conveyor belt for terrorists because they produced the intellectual ideas which led to the American people rising up against colonial rule."
If there is a threat it comes in ideas, because the message of Hizb - of a strong, international Islamic state; of a Middle East free of the western powers; of Islam as a solution to the problems of society - may be far more dangerous to the west.
Patel accepts that the very notion of a caliphate implies the destruction of institutions and government systems, but believes there is no alternative - although he stresses the transition will not be violent. And although Hizb has been making its argument for over half a century without visible results, Patel does not see that as a criticism of the concept. "We believe the caliphate could be established tomorrow. We believe all the ingredients are there," he says.
And he has a warning for the Muslim rulers of the world: "One of the greatest obstacles that exists is the brutality of the state and the fear that is instilled in the masses. What we say is that it is a matter of time before the masses observe that brutality and say enough is enough."
MIM: A recent HUT press release which announced a seminar to oppose the American offensive on Fallujah ended with a short "mission statement":
Hizb ut-Tahrir is an independent Islamic political party. The party works throughout the Islamic world to resume the Islamic way of life by re-establishing the Islamic Khilafah [Caliphate. The party adheres to Islamic law in all aspects of its work and considers violence or armed struggle against the regime, as a method to re-establish the Islamic State, to be forbidden by Islamic law. In the Western world, the party seeks to explain the Islamic ideology to Muslims, to create a dialogue with Western thinkers and to present a positive image of Islam to Western society.
Contact: Imran Waheed – Media Representative of Hizb ut-Tahrir in Britain Email: e-mail protected from spam bots Phone: 07074-192400 [+44(0)7800-548843 from outside the UK
Germany: Court Appeal By Hizb Ut-Tahrir Highlights Balancing Act Between Actions, Intentions By Sophie Lambroschini
A date has been set for a German court to hear an appeal by the radical Islamic group Hizb ut-Tahrir against the ban imposed on its activities almost two years ago. The case illustrates the thin line Germany is balancing in its efforts to combat Islamic radicals who have not been implicated in any terrorist activities but who are nevertheless perceived as a threat.
Berlin, 26 October 2004 (RFE/RL) -- For members of the banned Hizb ut-Tahrir, the battle to openly convince Muslims in Germany of the benefits of a worldwide Islamic state will be brought to court before the end of the year.
Karin Siebert, a press spokeswoman for the federal administrative court in Leipzig, told RFE/RL that the court, which reviews decisions made by federal ministries, will begin hearing the appeal on 2 December.
Hizb ut-Tahrir's appeal against the ban may affect German officials' handling of those they commonly dub as "hate-preachers" -- Islamic radicals who make virulent public pronouncements against Israel, the United States, and many Western values. These preachers are considered a threat but have never been implicated in any terrorist acts.
Hizb ut-Tahrir, best known for its growing influence as an illegal opposition movement in Central Asia, calls for the establishment of a "caliphate" over the whole Muslim world. While the group is largely tolerated as a nonviolent radical ideological group in the West and in Europe -- except for Germany and, more recently, Russia -- is banned and often persecuted in many Muslim countries.
For Hizb ut-Tahrir, the court date represents a chance to reverse a decision made unilaterally by German Interior Minister Otto Schily in January 2003. Schily said the group was "spreading hate and violence" and was calling for the killing of Jews.
One member of Hizb ut-Tahrir has been expelled from Germany for alleged ties to one of the 11 September attackers. However, German officials admit that the raids and searches in offices and homes have so far revealed little.
The group's representative in Germany is Shaker Assem, an engineer and an Austrian national of Egyptian descent. He rejects the accusations:
"We, the members of Hizb ut-Tahrir, are not anti-Semitic," Assem said. "We consequently reject that [accusation]. We do not call to kill Jews. Our call is addressed to the Muslim people to defend themselves against the Zionist aggression in Palestine. And they have the right to do so."
For the same reason, Assem said, he does not condemn the "resistance against the American aggressor in Iraq."
Nevertheless, Assem insists the group is "nonviolent," arguing that its efforts are not directed against Western governments and that the coming of the caliphate "will not necessarily mean bloodshed."
The scandal around Hizb ut-Tahrir in Germany erupted over a conference organized two years ago against the looming Iraq war by a student group affiliated with Hizb ut-Tahrir at Berlin's Technical University. The conference was also attended by several members of the extreme right-wing National German Party (NPD). The meeting provoked outrage in the press against "Islamists and neo-Nazis" uniting to deliver anti-Semitic harangues in a learning institution.
Russians Arrest Hizb ut Tahrir terrorist Kingpin, Seize Al - Qaeda Manuals
Russian law enforcement officials have detained the leader of a terrorist cell from the internatial Hizb ut-Tahrir organization, which intelligence has linked to Al Qaeda.
Alisher Usmanov, who headed a cell in central Russia's Tatarstan, was arrested Wednesday, carrying explosives and Al Qaeda training manuals and flyers, the Lenta.ru news site reported, citing police sources in the republic.
The explosives indicate that the man, who was already suspected of organizing a number of terrorist attacks, including a deadly blast in Uzbekistan last March, was planning yet another attack, Interior Ministry officials told the Russian Information Agency Novosti.
Earlier, four other members of the cell were arrested in the region.
Usmanov allegedly formed the cell of the Hizb ut-Tahrir group, which is banned in many countries, in 1996. He was on the international wanted list.
MIM: The involvement of HUT in terrorist attacks in Russia and the provinces is a subject for debate for law enforcement and terrorism experts. Despite the group's insistence on being non violent their goal to establish a caliphate in the West and alignment with Jihadist groups is evidence that their claims are disingenuous. The British suicide bomber, Omar Sharif , who attempted and failed to blow himself up in a seafront cafe in Tel Aviv was associated with Al Muhajiroun and Hizb ut Tahrir in the UK.
The trials that have taken place across Uzbekistan this fall have not fully clarified the key question of responsibility for the attacks, even as they have reignited a familiar debate over the methods Uzbek authorities use in their fight against religious extremism. But an unexpected breakthrough in the long-running case came on 11 November, when Kazakhstan's National Security Committee (KNB) announced that it has broken up a terrorist group with links to the violence in Uzbekistan. The new information suggests that remnants of the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan (IMU), which lost much of its organizational capacity when U.S.-led forces toppled the Taliban regime, have regrouped in a neo-IMU. And while it confirms some important aspects of earlier statements by Uzbek officials, it also raises new questions about the terror threat in Central Asia.
Vladimir Bozhko, first deputy chairman of Kazakhstan's National Security Committee (KNB), announced at a press conference in Astana on 11 November that Kazakh security forces have broken up a terrorist group in Kazakhstan with links to Al-Qaeda, Khabar news agency reported. The KNB arrested nine Kazakh citizens and four Uzbek citizens, and detained four Kazakh women trained as suicide bombers. Kazakh officials said that the group managed to recruit 50 Uzbek citizens and 20 Kazakh citizens since it began its activities in mid-2002. In the course of the arrests, police confiscated weapons, forged documents, and a large quantity of extremist propaganda, including a videotaped address by Al-Qaeda leader Osama Bin Laden.
The so-called Mujahedin of Central Asia Group was linked to the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan (IMU), a group with known Al-Qaeda ties, through one of its leaders, Zhakshybek Biimurzaev, a native of Kyrgyzstan and former IMU fighter. Biimurzaev directed the Mujahedin's activities in Kazakhstan, while Ahmad Bekmirzaev (spelled Bekmirzoev, Bekmurzaev, or Bekmurzoev in some reports), another IMU veteran, directed the Uzbek wing. Bekmirzaev was killed in a shoot-out with Uzbek police outside Tashkent on 30 March.
KNB officials said that members of the group were involved in terrorist attacks in Uzbekistan in late March-early April and three suicide bombings in Tashkent on 30 July, Kazinform reported. The bombings targeted the U.S. and Israeli embassies and the Uzbek Prosecutor-General's Office, killing four Uzbek law-enforcement personnel and the three suicide attackers. Khabar news agency quoted Zhakshybek Biimurzaev, the group's commander in Kazakhstan, as saying, "This year there were three terror attacks in Tashkent in July. I organized them on the instruction of my amir [commander] Usman. Three Kazakh citizens took part in them. I was opposed to this, but the amir ordered it." Later, Biimurzaev received orders from his commander to carry out another terror attack Bozhko said that the group's top leaders, who were located outside of Central Asia, had planned to assassinate a high-ranking Uzbek official.
According to Bozhko, the group's regional leaders, Bekmirzaev and Biimurzaev, received their training at terrorist camps in Afghanistan and Tajikistan, two areas where the IMU was active in the period before 2001. (In a curious detail, Biimurzaev was said to have trained with Khattab, the notorious Arab jihadist who was killed in Chechnya in 2002 under unclear circumstances.) Other members were sent for training to what Bozhko termed Al-Qaeda and Taliban camps, presumably in the remote regions of Pakistan where their remnants are believed to have fled after the U.S.-led invasion of Afghanistan. The group targeted Uzbekistan, Bozhko said, "because [the Uzbek authorities] purportedly oppress Muslims," Interfax-Kazakhstan reported. Members also referred to the United States and Israel, the Tashkent embassies of which were attacked by suicide bombers on 30 July, as "enemies of Islam."
The news conference in Astana underscored that ties to the violence in Uzbekistan spread throughout the region. As Uzbek authorities had previously announced, Avaz Shoyusupov, one of the suicide attackers on 30 July, was a Kazakh citizen. Two other Kazakh citizens, Isa Eruov and Makhira Ibragimova, the latter the wife of Bekmirzaev, blew themselves up in Uzbekistan in spring 2004, "Kazakhstan Today" reported. Biimurzaev was arrested with the help of Kyrgyzstan's National Security Service. One of his aides, Aidos Usmonov (described by Khabar as an Uzbek citizen and spelled Obboz Osmonov), was caught in Pavlodar, Kazakhstan on his way back from Russia, where he had allegedly been seeking new recruits. Bozhko noted that the Uzbek citizens arrested in Kazakhstan will be extradited to Uzbekistan once Kazakh officials complete their investigation.
Details Of Attacks Still Murky
The initial press conference adds significantly to our understanding of what took place in Uzbekistan earlier this year, although more information will have to come to light to clarify the details. In its general outlines, the account presented by Kazakh authorities in Astana on 11 November confirms some of the charges at the Tashkent trial of 15 defendants that began on 26 July and ended on 24 August. A 31 July press release by Uzbekistan's Foreign Ministry indicates that the 15 defendants, who were charged with participation in the violence on 29 March-1 April in Tashkent and Bukhara, were led by Bekmirzaev, described by Kazakh authorities as the group's commander in Uzbekistan. During the trial, the defendants identified a picture of Avaz Shoyusupov, the Kazakh citizen who blew himself up in the lobby of the Uzbek Prosecutor-General's Office in Tashkent on 30 July, and said that they met him in Kazakhstan in early 2004.
The Uzbek press release notes that some of the defendants underwent training at camps in Pakistan's Southern Waziristan province, where Deutsche Welle has reported activity by IMU remnants, as well as in Kazakhstan. At the 11 November press conference, however, Bozhko stated categorically that "there were no camps and bases for training terrorists on the territory of our country." But the Uzbek press release describes the "auxiliary camps" in Kazakhstan where some of the 15 defendants underwent training at "private apartments" in Shymkent and elsewhere, which would seem to indicate that the apparent dispute between Uzbek and Kazakh officials concerns terminology.
But serious questions arise over the group's alleged organizational affiliation. The Uzbek trial stressed the ideological influence of Hizb ut-Tahrir (HT), noting that several of the defendants were members of the banned extremist organization. In a nationally televised address on 31 July, the day after the suicide attacks on the U.S. and Israeli embassies and the Prosecutor-General's Office, Uzbek President Islam Karimov stated that the suicide attackers and the 15 defendants "belong to the same group." In the same address, he chided the media for suggesting IMU involvement in the attacks and, citing the confessions of the 15 defendants, stressed the role of HT ideology in the terror attacks.
Yet the Kazakh news conference, which in other respects confirms the official Uzbek version of events, said nothing about HT and implied a direct link to the IMU through Bekmirzaev and Biimurzaev. For its part, HT, which espouses the radical aim of establishing a caliphate in Central Asia while claiming to eschew violence, has repeatedly denied any involvement in terror attacks in Uzbekistan.
Given the histories of the two organizations and the information that is common to both official Uzbek and Kazakh accounts, the involvement of a "neo-IMU" in the attacks in Uzbekistan appears more likely than the sudden transformation of HT into a violent terrorist organization. Before the U.S.-led operation in Afghanistan destroyed its base of operations, the IMU carried out violent attacks on the Uzbek government, and the IMU is well within the ideological orbit of violent jihad, especially after its leadership developed close ties with Al-Qaeda in Afghanistan. The neo-IMU would seem to consist of surviving members of the original IMU who fled Afghanistan after late 2001 and regrouped elsewhere, some in remote areas of Pakistan and others in Central Asia. The neo-IMU may also have drawn current or former adherents of HT in Central Asia, and particularly Uzbekistan, who wished to take more direct action.
The insistence by Uzbek authorities that most, if not all, roads lead to HT may represent a refusal to deviate from what has now been official policy for several years -- that HT represents the greatest threat to stability in Uzbek society. In the context of this policy, the focus on HT in defendants' testimony could have resulted from the actions of overzealous investigators and prosecutors. An 18 August letter from Human Rights Watch to President Karimov raised the issue of coercion in the abovementioned trial of 15 defendants, stating, "the prosecution's case is based entirely on the defendants' confessions, and the defense has so far failed to inquire at trial as to the conditions under which such confessions were made."
Whether or not subsequent reports confirm the existence of a neo-IMU, we have enough information at present to draw several conclusions about the group. First, its financial resources seem limited, which is likely to impact its organizational capacity. At the news conference in Kazakhstan, Bozhko said that while the Mujahedin received some funding from abroad, they financed their operations with two armed robberies in which three people were killed. A terrorist organization willing to risk armed robbery is clearly in some financial difficulty. Reports noted that attackers in Tashkent in the spring assaulted policemen on patrol and stole their weapons, a further indication of limited means. Second, the foiled plan to assassinate a high-ranking Uzbek official, taken in conjunction with past attacks that targeted police and the Prosecutor-General's Office, suggests a commitment to attacking symbols of the Uzbek government. Future operations may unfold along similar lines. Third, future operations will be problematic. According to the information provided at the Astana news conference, Kazakh security forces have broken up one group and will surely be looking for others.
Counterterrorism cooperation has been increasing in the region, and Uzbek, and possibly Kyrgyz, security forces will also be stepping up their efforts to clamp down on suspected militant activity.
MIM: The Hizb ut Tahrir website in Britain 1924.org placed this article on their website from The Jamestown Foundation . The article explains the differences between the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan and Hizb ut Tahrir.
Islam and Uzbekistan an interview with Dr. Rafik Saifulin
Dr. Saifulin is an adviser to Uzbek President Islam Karimov and former director of the Uzbek Institute of Strategic and Regional Studies. This interview was conducted in Tashkent, and translated from the Russian, by Dr. Evgueni Novikov.
Evgueni Novikov: The infrastructure and man-power of most Islamist groups, particularly the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan (IMU), is said to have been significantly weakened by "Operation Enduring Freedom." However, some have argued that because Hizb ut-Tahrir (HT) is primarily a propaganda organization with no military facilities to be destroyed, its strength has increased by comparison to that of other Islamists organizations. Some analysts believe that the fall of the Taliban might even have brought new recruits to HT. Do you agree with these views?
Rafik Saifulin: In a certain sense, one can claim that the weakening of the Taliban and IMU had already resulted in a boost for HT and continues to boost this party. At the same time, the following question is important: To what extend is the comparison of HT and the Taliban as organized movements appropriate? We have to take into consideration that they have different geographical belts of "responsibility" and activity; they have different enough sources of financing, and they have different social and national-ethnic bases.
In general, to what extend is it appropriate to compare the Taliban of Afghanistan and HT in Central Asia? I think that [the comparison] is not quite correct – though there are some similarities. Certainly, for parts of the population of Uzbekistan and Central Asia (perhaps 5%), the Taliban acted as a symbol, though an extremely remote one. Despite an apparent geographic affinity, Afghanistan and the Taliban are alien for the majority Uzbeks and people in the region.
Also, to what extend is it appropriate to compare HT and the IMU? We have to take into consideration that these organizations use different tactical methods. The IMU has already spoiled its image (both among supporters and at the international level) by its involvement in drug-dealing, by its terrorist and violent methods, and by its contact with the Taliban. But it is necessary to ask whether HT supports direct contact with international terrorist organizations, such as al-Qaeda. It is impossible to exclude such a possibility. At the same time, it is necessary to note the similarities in the slogans and strategic goals [of HT and the IMU], which are based on a priority of Islam, and also to point out their similar social niches and geographical foci.
On the whole, then, assuming a link between [the decline] of the IMU and a [rise in the] influence of HT, including a strengthening of its social base, is appropriate. However, supporters and sympathizers of HT are a recruiting base from which small groups of fanatics/terrorists are selected.
Also, one must ask how true is it that HT has no military structure or capabilities? This is basically correct, but there are also some serious concerns. I believe that the presence or absence of a military structure or military capabilities is not a parameter – [it is not] an indicator of the real long-term plans and goals of HT. Today, HT focuses mainly on its social base, that is the key precondition for a cardinal expansion of its financial, political and, certainly, military opportunities in future – at a time convenient for HT.
In case of Uzbekistan – the formation of a military structure would certainly be difficult, but nevertheless possible, if we consider the wide potential of HT's social base. If socio-economic conditions deteriorate, we can not exclude such a development. By comparison with other Central Asian countries, HT's military structure could be generated most successfully and quickly in Tajikistan; this structure could be based on steady contacts between the HT and IMU offices in Tajikistan – given the inhibitions on the IMU's structure – and also an HT military formation could be based on the large number of dispersed supporters of violent actions.
In a case of the Kyrgyzstan, HT already has the most important condition for the fast expansion of a military structure – significant rates of growth in its social base of (so-far peaceful) supporters of Islam as a whole and HT in particular. We have to remember that for the population of Kyrgyzstan, the norms and principles of Islam were not dominant for a long period of time. The principles of Islam were borrowed basically from the Uzbek part of the republic's population. [This segment of the population is significant in Kyrgyzstan, especially in the south of the country.] HT has become stronger in Kyrgyzstan because of the migration of HT's supporters from Uzbekistan. Kyrgyzstan keeps a neutral stance regarding the growth of religious sentiment among the local population. But socio-political instability in Kyrgyzstan creates a wide field of action for HT, at least in short-term.
In the case of Kazakhstan, as in Uzbekistan, opportunity to create a military structure for HT is minimal – though there are very real opportunities in the southern regions of Kazakhstan. Also, we can see certain attempts by HT to strengthen its hold in the western parts of the country, which are rich in oil. They are doing this because a growth in religious sentiment has been observed [in the west] as illegal laborers/migrants are pouring into these parts of Kazakhstan from the most religious areas of Uzbekistan. We notice a move in HT's activities from Uzbekistan to Kazakhstan. As a whole, HT is attractive to those who cannot find a place for themselves in the modern, complex social and economic conditions of Uzbekistan and other countries in Central Asia, such as Kazakhstan. Even fatwahs from the High Muslim spiritual leadership of these republics, forbidding youths to have any contact with representatives of HT, are not obeyed. Any such instruction, even from authoritative clerics, is viable only if the youth have an opportunity to express themselves in legal, public practices. But because of mass unemployment among the young, these individuals are being easily recruited to become members of radical Islamic or pseudo-Islamic organizations. Also, it is possible to assert with confidence that the tendency toward radicalization will gradually increase, since the objective preconditions for improvements in the standard of living in these countries are not yet visible.
At the same time, it is not necessary to exaggerate the potential of HT. Grave economic conditions and daily concerns about their own survival make most of the population socially passive and apolitical. Moreover, about one million people (the most socially active part of the population living outside of Tashkent) are annually involved in labor migration to the Russian Federation and Kazakhstan, which sharply decreases social pressures. Only human rights professionals or the radical youths from Islamic organizations are engaged in political activity. HT's activities will most probable increase only if the internal political situation is aggravated because of a struggle for authority and power.
Novikov: The Uzbek government has created a network of religious educational institutions, including non-governmental organizations (such as the Association of Muslims of Uzbekistan) and government-sponsored learning institutions (such as the Islamic University in Tashkent), which took a leading role in coordinating special working groups of both religious and secular scholars. Their purpose is to create new text books that emphasize traditional Islam and reject radical Islam. What resources does this network have? What kind of impact is the project expected to have in the near term and in the longer term? Are the network and its products considered legitimate by the general population?
Saifulin: Resources, certainly, are limited. Significant additional financing from foreign and, especially, internal sources is improbable. In the near future, the project of de-legitimating radical Islamists will have a positive, but, at the same time, limited influence on internal processes. Since we have no systematic or complex measures that combine economic, political and only then informational steps, large scale changes in public sentiment are impossible. Also, the basic audience of the project is a population of more than 25 million, where about 70% are younger than 30 years-old. To what extent will the project be capable of meeting their needs and requirements?
In the long-term, the plan's realization will be directly connected to the economic development of Uzbekistan, including some kind of liberal environment for small and mid-sized business activity, as well as processes of integration in the Central Asian region. Problems and various obstacles to these goals will seriously harm the strategic goals of the project, despite their correctness, and will undermine its legitimacy within the population. So it seems that the project will have legitimacy for an insignificant part of the population, by virtue of its comparative financial limitations and, moreover, because of the presence of fundamental social and economic difficulties in the country.
In general, there is a need for larger, broader, better organized and better-financed programs where the interpretation of the present political ideology in accordance with the Qur'an for Muslims is only one of the components. The stress should be on the formation of state ideology, where current achievements are very modest. More support of state actions, with the help of mass media and the educational system, is needed. It is necessary to depart from this primitive informational policy, which does not reach the majority of the population, i.e., the youth and children.
Novikov: HT's rise has been compared to that of the Bolsheviks in late 19th and early 20th century Russia. Especially, allegations have been made that HT successfully uses the prison system to gain and indoctrinate recruits. Do you agree with such an analogy?
Saifulin: The analogy between HT and the Bolshevik movement is very apt, as well as the comparative analysis of what happened then and processes that are occurring today [with regard to the] appearance of new revolutionary ideologies on the political stage. Concurrences of methods between HT and the Bolsheviks "work" in prison conditions are evident, especially with regard to people who have insignificant prison terms for small offences, perhaps in connection with actions directed at the overthrow of the existing regime. Such people become, as a rule, ideologically stronger when they leave jails. At the same time, it is impossible to say that recruiting in prisons has a mass character.
Novikov: We don't know who or what areas provide HT with the most support. Is HT more popular in urban or rural areas? Among farmers or businessmen?
Saifulin: The popularity of HT is certainly higher in countryside and, hence, HT has more sympathizers among the rural portions of the population. The layer of representatives among small and average businessmen in villages is just being formed. Thus, HT possessed, and probably possesses, a certain number of supporters among representatives in small and average business in cities – in particular, among those who are engaged in small wholesale trading operations. Thus, their majority are from the countryside.
Novikov: Some have claimed that the economic situation in the region has led to HT's success in recruiting government officials. Do you agree with such views?
Saifulin: It is impossible to call it a "tendency," but this phenomenon most likely takes place, especially in the most economically underdeveloped countries such as Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan, where the level of corruption and the representation of clerical elements in governmental structures is also rather high. As a whole, it is more the exception rather than the rule for Central Asian countries. At the same time, the aggravation of the political struggles within Central Asian countries, as in Kyrgyzstan for example, may lead to the further penetration of HT supporters into governmental structures and, as a consequence, to large-scale kick backs or the recruitment of other government representatives.
Novikov: We have almost no information on HT's funding. Where and from whom is HT getting the money to support its operations? How much money is required to fund HT's operations?
Saifulin: I think that one of the main sources of financing is external: the "charities" of some radical international organizations and, certainly, HT centers in Arabian and some European countries such as Great Britain. Another important source of financing is internal: contributions by HT representatives, those who are involved in legal commerce, and also contributions by HT sympathizers. A third important source is the black market, which is especially large in the frontier areas of all Central Asian countries where semi-criminal businesses have developed. Representatives from all the countries of the region are involved in this business, which possesses a monopoly on trading operations in frontier areas. The semi-criminal business profits from tensions in the mutual relations between the countries of Central Asia, and works against the liberalization of intra-regional trade.
Novikov: Some have claimed that the local population has been put off by HT's anti-Semitic message and focus on Middle Eastern issues. Do you agree with such views?
Saifulin: Initially, yes. However, now such questions of ideology do not push people away any more – on the contrary they even attract supporters. Criticism of the USA's role in Israel the Near East recently grew from some parts of the religious population in Central Asia. This tendency is not of a steady character yet. However, an absence of progress in the social and economic sphere, and an absence of systematic informational measures, may amplify this tendency. Acts of terrorism against the embassies of the United States and Israel serve as proof of this tendency. At the same time, such terrorist actions draw the attention of many believers away from Central Asian countries, to the policies of the U.S. and Israel on a regional and global level, creating a certain sense of similarity of processes in the Near East and Central Asia. Here there is a danger that such analogies [between the Near East and Central Asia, for example] can lead to the search for an external source of all troubles.
Meanwhile, the search for answers to the political questions arising from Central Asian populations inevitably pushes people to the most important local sources of information – the Russian media – where reports have an obviously anti-American character. The lack of financial resources for the development of local mass-media is especially true for Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, and Uzbekistan. This leads to a situation in which the Russian media provides basic news and information to regional sources which in turn transmit these ideas to the population of their countries.
Novikov: We only have a very limited idea of what political and socio-economic direction the region is moving in. Which of the following four types of people is most respected among the local population: religious leaders, businessmen, politicians or soldiers? What do the youth aspire to be when they grow up?
Saifulin: In order to answer to this question we have to consider external and internal aspects of the problem. Looking at the external aspects, we must point out that regional integration should be considered a unique solution for the survival and development of Central Asian states – but regional integration is being carried out extremely slowly. The growth of Russian interests in Central Asia may solve this key problem, since only Russia could become the locomotive of economic integration here. However, the absence of a clear-cut Russian strategy, some friction between Russian-American relations, and the rise of artificial competition between Russia and the U.S. in the Central Asia which has distracted Western attention to the region – these are the main negative external factors that lead to a deterioration of the situation in the Central Asia. In these conditions, China has sought to become an engine of social, economic and political progress in Central Asia. As a result, Chinese policies can seriously influence the dynamics of domestic trends and development within Central Asian states.
If we look at the internal aspects of the problem, we have to take into consideration the complicated social and economic situation, and as a consequence, the growth of discontent among the population and the increase of religion's role in social life. These factors could create a worst-case scenario in the region in the intermediate future.
The most important professional activities of the local population can be described as follows. For Uzbekistan: business and military service, then religious or political activity; for Kazakhstan: business, politics, and then military service and religious activity; Kyrgyzstan: business and simultaneously religious activity, then political activity and military service; Tajikistan: business, military, then religious activity and political career; and for Turkmenistan: business, political activity (though, it is possible vise versa), and then military service and religious activity.
Source: The Jamestown Foundation
Hizb ut Tahrir planned hostage taking in Russia -prosecutor
TYUMEN. Oct 22 (Interfax-Urals) - Members of the Tobolsk branch of Hizb-ut-Tahrir, an organization found to be extremist by the Russian Supreme Court, has been collecting weaponry and planning to take hostages, Tyumen region prosecutor Ernest Valeyev told a news conference at the join Interfax-Urals and Tyumen Line news agency center on Friday.
The regional prosecution office has evidence of such plans and intends to present it to the court, he said. Five of the eight suspects in the case have been arrested, Valeyev said.
"The group will most likely face charges of extremism and setting up an extremist organization. The investigation is expected to be completed in November," he said.
One killed, 2 injured in Dagestan car blast 11/03/04
A car explosion rocked a gas station in Makhachkala, the capital of North Caucasus republic of Dagestan on Tuesday evening. One person was killed and at least two were injured, including a 10-year-old boy.
Local police found fragments of a person's body and the passport of a certain Aslambek Askhabov, a Chechen resident and reportedly a member of an illegal armed group, Russian Information Agency Novosti reported Wednesday.
A police source quoted by the agency did not rule out that a terrorist attack was being prepared in Makhachkala but the bomb went off accidentally.
A 41-year-old adult and a boy were taken to hospital. 10 cars were totally burnt out, and 20 others were damaged. It was earlier reported that a gas cylinder exploded. The size of the explosion was estimated to have been the equivalent of 25kg of trotyl.
A newly declassified U.S. intelligence report that was recently obtained by Judicial Watch, an American public interest group, suggests that Osama bin Laden and his terrorist network al-Qaida plan to establish a base in Chechnya, a place they describe as "unreachable by strikes from the West".
The Defense Intelligence Agency Intelligence Information Report was made in 1998 and obtained through a Freedom of Information Act request on Oct. 30, World Net Daily reports.
It provides extensive information about bin Ladin's activities in Central Asia, and confirms the existence of a secure "route to Chechnya from Pakistan and Afghanistan through Turkey and Azerbaijan".
An overview of European fact, Turkish figures, and some courtcases. Hizb ut Tahrir and Islamo facists in Germany
While the debate continues in Danmark politicians are pointing to the rise of extremism. One of the Islamist groups that advocate extremism, they say, is Hizb-ut-Tahrir, as it seeks to establish a strict Islamic state in Danmark. The Danish Prime minister Anders Fogh Rasmussen told a reporter of Jyllands Posten: 'Their is a great similarity with nazism, I believe they have an antidemocratic disposition.' And mr. Fogh Rasmussen added: 'Extremism is basically authoritarian, democracy must be cancelled and a dictatorship installed—in this case a religious leader.' We must, the Danish Prime minister stressed, treat these groups as we have treated the nazis. In the meantime European courts try to tackle the problem of fundamentalist preachers. On the 6th of december a German Appealcourt in Leipzig decided that the Islamist Metin Kaplan had not been illegally deported. In Turkey Kaplan is now facing trial for conspiracy. The self-appointed Calif of Cologne, the Turkish government claims, has tried to overthrow the secular institutions. Kaplan did successfully prevent his deportation by using the argument that he would be tortured in a Turkish prison and possibly receive the death-penalty. The lawyer of the german government, mr. Kay Hailbronner contested, that Kaplan would be treated according the rules. Turkey, mr. Hailbrunner emphasized, would obey international conventions i.r.t. Human Rights, (Berliner Tageszeitung / http://www.taz.de/pt/2004/12/08/a0084.nf/text ). The case of mr.Kaplan has stirred public opinion and lead to heated debates about the roles of the Turks in Germany. About 2.5 million Turkish immigrants reside in Germany; 27 percent of all the immigrants are Turks. The figures for Europe are as follows: In France 208.000 Turks live; in Austria about 135.000; in the Netherlands a 100.000; in Switzerland 79.000; in Great Britain 58.000; in Belgium 56.000; in Danmark 35.000. These figures are based on the number of legal status holders, that is to say immigrants whose papers have been processed by the authorities. The number, the researchers maintain, could be significantly higher, not included were the holders of two passports, viz. a Turkish and an European Identity-card or passport (such as a Dutch, British, German, Belgian, and French passport etc.). The Turkish minorities can not be overlooked. When Turkey joins the Union it will be one of its largest or the largest memberstate. It has about 70 million inhabitants, there are 3 mainstreams of religious thought in Turkey: the secularistic or kemalistic outlook dominating life in the cities; the sunnite viewpoint mainly dominating the villages of Anatolia, it is partially fundamentalistic; and the Alevite point of view. Alevites are muslims inspired by an amalgamated teaching which contains Shiite material, pre-islamic and nomadic customs. The Alevites fully support Kemal Atatürks secular philosophy and reject the Sharia.
The Alevites are a minority (25 percent), which is called azinlik. There is a European federation of Alevites. In the Ministry of Religious Affairs, which is under the control of the Prime Minister, no Alevite is represented. This ministry or Diyanet Isleri Baskanligi is currently setting out a so-called 'reform-course' which is inspired by its chief civil officer, the theologian Ali Bardakoglu. Due to migration in and outside Turkey the sunnite Islam has gained considerable influence in Turkish state affairs. The Sunnites are represented and the fundamentalists desire a return of Islamic law, they preach adul düzen or just order. The main representatives of Adül Düzen is Milli Gürus, an association with about 30000 members in Germany. They dominate the German Islamrat or Islamcouncil, which is the 'Dachverband' or federal council for Islamic Associations, mosques and cultural centres in Germany. Milli Gürus is closely watched by the Verfassungsschutz (Constitutional Defense). The sunnite fundamentalists are the power-base from which Necmittin Erbakan has recruited his following, they constitute the raw material upon which Prime Minister Erdogan has constructed his party, advocating a strongly conservative islam. His great example. mr. Erdogan claims, is the German CDU.
Since the rise of politicians such as Erbakan and Erdogan there is also another party that has discovered Islam. It is the MHP, founded by the late mr.Alpaslan, a rightwing extremist party which is panturk, anti-kurdish and anti-Alevite and a potential powerbase for mr.Erdogan.
Religious affairs in Turkey are a matter of state and policy. The Ministry of Religious Affairs is a tool for the Turkish government to control religious sentiments. Not only in Turkey but also amongst its citizens that have immigrated to f.e. Germany and Holland. In Germany the policies of the Ministry of Religious Affairs is represented by the association Ditib, the largest association of Turks in Germany. The van Gogh murder has stirred up a debate about controversial issues amongst German immigrants. Mr. Kenan Kolat, manager of the Türkischen Gemeinde (or Turkish community) has declared: 'we must take action and draw conclusions as hate grows amongst the Turks. Hate against the christian society, hate against the jews and the USA, and Israel as representatives of capitalism.' Barbara Schaüble, coordinator of a regional group against Xenophobia says that many youths use expressions such as: 'wir wollen keine Judenschweine (we donot want any Jewish pigs, an ss-expression), and these incidents are either ignored or downtoned, because they are filed under the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.' There is more unrest. In the last week of november the orthodox Islamic Federation suspended the imam from the Mevlana-mosque because of his profound anti-german speeches, in which the imam told his audience the Germans were pigs, barbarians that didnot give them anything substantial. When the islam came to Germany the Germans even did not have lavatories... After the report on German Television the imam was suspended. 'That may be so,' Claudia Danschke told the Frankfurter Allgemeine, 'but we do-not know what is being taught in the koranschools in Germany. It is the strategy of Islamic extremists to mime to the outside world as moderates, within their own walls however they promulgate extremist teachings.' During a conference in Berlin-kreuzberg one of the attendants pointed to the role of media, especially that of arab satellite-tv which delivered hateful messages to the immigrant's living quarters in Berlin, and added: 'in Internet there is a website called 'Muslimmarkt', the largest Islamic Portal in Germany. It contains material such as: 'Attention, dear Christian, Zionists are in power here.' And in the newspaper of the fundamentalist organisation Milli Gürus the islamists write: 'Dozens of perverse institutions, jewish and christian committees, leer to lure away our children.' ("Dutzende von perversen Institutionen, Juden- und Christenkomitees, lauern auf eine günstige Gelegenheit, um uns unsere Kinder abspenstig zu machen.")
Kenan Kolat doesnot think that language is the problem, like Mrs. Annette Schavan Baden-Württembergs culture minister who wants imams to speak German. There was another case in court. Not only Kaplan lost his appeal, in France the High Court annulled the appeal against the banningorder of the former imam of Vénissieux (near Lyon) mr.Abdelkader Bouziane. www.conseil-etat.fr/ce/actual/index_ac_lc0409.shtml) In an interview with a French newspaper mr. Bouziane had told a reporter that the Koran legitimized the abuse of unfaithful women. The French authorities did also accuse mr.Abdelkader Bouziane of involvement with fundamentalist terrorists. He has been deported to Algeria. (www.interieur.gouv.fr/rubriques/a/a5_communiques/2004_10_04_ bouziane)