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Hizb ut Tahrir infiltrates within campuses in UK and Bangladesh

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Salah Uddin Shoaib Choudhury
Salah Uddin Shoaib Choudhury
Salah Uddin Shoaib Choudhury is an internationally acclaimed multi-award-winning anti-militancy journalist, writer, research scholar, and counterterrorism specialist. He regularly writes for local and international newspapers.

Startling revelations have come to light regarding activists of the notorious jihadist group, Hizb ut Tahrir in campuses in Bangladesh and the UK. It may be mentioned here that Hizb ut Tahrir denounces democracy and empowerment of women and advocates establishment of Caliphate. These activists have been surreptitiously making their way back to Bangladesh and UK campuses, despite being banned from universities.

Recently, a UK newspaper has exclusively revealed the prominent figures within the British arm of Hizb ut Tahrir, an organization that seeks to establish a global Muslim caliphate under sharia law, have been featured as keynote speakers at ten separate events held within universities over the past 18 months.

Operated by Islamic societies associated with various universities, including Bradford, Birmingham, and the London School of Economics (LSE), these events have managed to evade scrutiny by not publicly disclosing the speakers’ ties to Hizb ut Tahrir. Remarkably, these activities have occurred despite the National Union of Students having long-standing restrictions on the presence of this Islamist group on campuses. Notably, it remains uncertain whether the Islamic societies involved were aware of the Hizb ut Tahrir members’ affiliations.

One of the speakers at these events, Luqman Muqeem, has not only participated in these talks but has also disseminated online videos that advocate violence against Jews, asserting that Muslims should engage in a lethal fight against them and that the Jewish “promised land” is in fact hell. Muqeem, prominently featured on Hizb ut Tahrir’s website, has spoken at multiple events on campuses, including five at Birmingham University and another at the University of Bradford.

While these activities have been ongoing, the fact that the speakers’ connections to Hizb ut Tahrir were not disclosed in event promotions has alarmed the Community Security Trust. They have raised concerns about the group’s attempts to “infiltrate universities by covert means”.

A CST spokesperson emphasized Hizb ut Tahrir’s history of promoting anti-Jewish sentiments and employing front organizations to gain access to campuses.

The Union of Jewish Students also voiced deep concerns, stressing that extremist groups such as Hizb ut Tahrir should not be granted a platform to propagate hatred against Jewish people. Meanwhile, Professor Anthony Glees, an expert in security and intelligence who has extensively researched Hizb ut Tahrir, called for counter-terrorist police to investigate the student societies hosting these speakers, asserting that universities are places of learning and should not provide platforms for extremist ideologies.

Hizb ut Tahrir, established in Jerusalem in 1953, has a history of promoting antisemitism and engaging in activities with violent inclinations. Despite its ban by the National Union of Students in 2004 for its association with supporting terrorism and inciting racial hatred, the group appears to have found ways to circumvent the ban and re-emerge on campuses.

The challenges posed by such activities raise concerns about the ongoing battle to prevent extremist ideologies from taking root within educational institutions and emphasize the need for heightened vigilance in upholding university regulations.

Hizb ut Tahrir’s campus activities in Bangladesh

Hizb ut Tahrir has attracted attention for its activities on university campuses in Bangladesh. While promoting itself as a peaceful organization seeking to establish a global Islamic caliphate, its methods and ideology have raised concerns among both government authorities and academic institutions.

Hizb ut Tahrir advocates for the unification of Muslim-majority countries under a single Islamic state ruled by Sharia law. The organization has been banned in several countries, including Bangladesh, due to its controversial tactics and goals. It often uses campus platforms to disseminate its message, targeting young minds with its vision of a caliphate and promoting its interpretation of Islamic principles.

Hizb ut Tahrir’s activities on university campuses in Bangladesh have included distributing pamphlets, organizing lectures, and conducting discussions on various topics related to Islam, politics, and the establishment of a caliphate. The group often focuses on criticizing the existing political system in Bangladesh, alleging corruption and a departure from Islamic principles. It calls for the overthrow of secular governments and the implementation of its vision for an Islamic state.

Potential for radicalization

Hizb ut Tahrir’s message, while presented as peaceful, has the potential to radicalize susceptible individuals. Its call for the overthrow of the government and the establishment of a caliphate could attract individuals who feel disenfranchised or disenchanted with the current political system.

Disruption of campus harmony

The presence of Hizb ut Tahrir on campuses can disrupt the academic environment. It may create tensions among students with differing ideological beliefs and lead to confrontations or even violence.

Violation of university regulations

Many universities in Bangladesh have regulations that prohibit political activities on campus. Hizb ut Tahrir’s activities may violate these rules and lead to clashes with university administrations.

Government response

The Bangladeshi government has banned Hizb ut Tahrir, and its activities on campuses raise concerns about the organization’s ability to operate covertly. This poses challenges for law enforcement and security agencies to ensure the rule of law is upheld.

Freedom of Expression

Balancing concerns about the potential negative impacts of Hizb ut Tahrir’s activities with the principles of freedom of expression and academic freedom is a delicate task. It is essential to find ways to address extremist ideologies while safeguarding these fundamental rights.

Connections between Hizb ut Tahrir and jihadist groups

Hizb ut Tahrir and jihadist groups share some similarities in terms of their overarching goal of establishing Islamic states governed by Sharia law.

However, there are significant differences in their methods, strategies, and approach to achieving this goal. It’s crucial to understand these distinctions to grasp the connections (or lack thereof) between Hizb ut Tahrir and jihadist organizations. As of my last knowledge update in September 2021, there wasn’t a direct operational alliance between Hizb ut Tahrir and known jihadist groups. Still, there were some indirect ideological overlaps and potential recruitment grounds that need to be examined.

Ideological overlaps and differences

Both Hizb ut Tahrir and jihadist groups, such as Al-Qaeda or ISIS, share a common objective of establishing Islamic states governed by strict interpretations of Sharia law. This goal reflects a desire for political and social change based on their interpretation of Islamic principles.

One of the primary distinctions between Hizb ut Tahrir and most jihadist groups is the former’s explicit commitment to non-violence. Hizb ut Tahrir advocates for a peaceful political revolution to establish the caliphate through ideological propagation, recruitment, and political activism. In contrast, jihadist groups often use violence, terrorism, and armed conflict to achieve their objectives.

Both groups emphasize the importance of the caliphate, but Hizb ut Tahrir’s approach is centered on re-establishing the caliphate through a gradual, non-violent process. Jihadist groups, on the other hand, often prioritize immediate violent actions aimed at territorial control and resistance against perceived enemies.

Hizb ut Tahrir primarily engages in ideological propagation, recruiting individuals through its peaceful activities, and focusing on political change. Jihadist groups rely on a combination of guerrilla warfare, terrorism, propaganda, and territorial control.

Potential for recruitment grounds

While Hizb ut Tahrir officially rejects violence, there have been concerns that its ideological messages and activities could serve as recruitment grounds for individuals who may later be susceptible to the influence of jihadist organizations. This is a potential area of concern, as individuals radicalized by Hizb ut Tahrir’s extremist ideology could later be influenced by more violent groups.

Caliphate ideology poses security threat to the world

The concept of a caliphate, which represents a political and religious authority over the global Muslim community (ummah), can pose security threats to the world for several reasons. It’s essential to recognize that not all interpretations of the caliphate ideology lead to violence or security threats. However, certain extremist interpretations, such as those embraced by groups like ISIS (Islamic State of Iraq and Syria), have raised significant concerns. Here are some reasons why the caliphate ideology, when taken to an extreme, can pose security threats:

Some extremist groups seek to establish a caliphate through violent means, including terrorism and insurgency. These groups may employ tactics such as suicide bombings, guerrilla warfare, and attacks on civilian populations to achieve their goal. The violence associated with such efforts can destabilize regions, threaten public safety, and lead to loss of life.

The allure of the caliphate ideology can serve as a powerful recruiting tool for extremist groups. The idea of creating a utopian Islamic state can attract individuals who may feel marginalized, disenfranchised, or disenchanted with the existing political and social order. This recruitment can lead to the radicalization of individuals, further expanding the ranks of extremist organizations.

The pursuit of a caliphate is often linked to rigid interpretations of Islamic law (Sharia) that may curtail individual freedoms and human rights, particularly for minority groups. Extremist groups aiming to establish a caliphate might impose strict social codes, suppress dissent, and engage in persecution of those who do not adhere to their particular interpretation of Islam.

The establishment of a caliphate, especially when pursued by force, can create territorial disputes and conflicts with other nations or non-state actors. These disputes can escalate into regional conflicts, leading to instability and geopolitical tensions.

The caliphate ideology, when propagated through effective propaganda and online recruitment, can attract adherents from around the world. Foreign fighters from various countries have joined conflicts in regions where extremist groups seek to establish a caliphate. The international nature of these conflicts can further contribute to security challenges.

Efforts to establish a caliphate can destabilize countries and regions, leading to power vacuums, weak governance, and increased vulnerability to other security threats, such as organized crime and transnational terrorism.

It’s essential to emphasize that the caliphate ideology, in its moderate and historical forms, does not inherently pose a security threat. However, when embraced by extremist groups that advocate violence, reject peaceful coexistence, and aim to impose their beliefs on others, it becomes a significant concern for global security. Addressing these threats requires a comprehensive approach that includes counterterrorism efforts, counter-radicalization initiatives, diplomatic solutions, and addressing the root causes of extremism.

Caliphate ideology denounces democracy and empowerment of women

The caliphate ideology, as embraced by certain extremist groups and interpretations, often denounces democracy and may advocate for a restrictive view of women’s rights. It’s essential to understand that there is a wide range of beliefs and interpretations within the Islamic world, and not all adherents of the caliphate ideology hold the same views. However, some extremist groups that advocate for a caliphate have historically opposed democratic governance and have implemented or promoted regressive policies regarding women’s roles in society. Here’s why these aspects of the caliphate ideology can be concerning:

Extremist interpretations of the caliphate ideology may reject democratic principles, considering them incompatible with their vision of an Islamic state. They may argue for a theocratic form of governance, where religious leaders or a supreme religious authority dictate laws and policies based on their interpretation of Islamic law (Sharia).

Some extremist groups view democracy as a foreign concept imposed by Western powers. They may believe that Islamic governance, as they interpret it, is superior to democracy and should replace secular systems.

The rejection of democracy in favor of a caliphate can lead to instability and conflict, as extremist groups may seek to overthrow existing governments they view as un-Islamic, potentially leading to violence and political turmoil.

Some interpretations of the caliphate ideology promote traditional and restrictive gender roles for women. This might involve limiting women’s access to education, work, and political participation, often based on a narrow interpretation of religious texts.

Extremist groups that aim to establish a caliphate may curtail the rights and freedoms of women, which can have profound societal implications, restricting women’s empowerment, autonomy, and equality.

Such policies can hinder social progress, economic development, and overall societal well-being by limiting the contributions of half the population.

It’s important to note that these extremist views are not representative of all Muslims or even all proponents of the caliphate concept. Many Muslims and Islamic scholars believe in compatibility between Islam and democracy, as well as equal rights for women within an Islamic framework. Also, there are historical examples of diverse and more inclusive interpretations of the caliphate that supported a broader range of social and political roles for women.

Addressing concerns related to the caliphate ideology requires a nuanced understanding of the specific beliefs and motivations of different groups, while also working to counter extremist ideologies through education, promoting tolerance, supporting women’s rights, and fostering democratic values. The activities of Hizb ut Tahrir on university campuses in Bangladesh raise significant concerns about the potential for radicalization, disruption of campus harmony, and violations of university regulations. Addressing these concerns requires a multifaceted approach that involves proactive measures by academic institutions, effective law enforcement, and a broader societal dialogue about extremism, politics, and freedom of expression. It is essential to find a balance that respects diverse viewpoints while preventing the propagation of extremist ideologies that can threaten stability and peace in the country.

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Salah Uddin Shoaib Choudhury
Salah Uddin Shoaib Choudhury
Salah Uddin Shoaib Choudhury is an internationally acclaimed multi-award-winning anti-militancy journalist, writer, research scholar, and counterterrorism specialist. He regularly writes for local and international newspapers.
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