Is Hizb ut-Tahrir a political or a religious movement? Is it inciting or justifying terrorism? Is it anti-Semitic?
By Willy Fautré, Human Rights Without Frontiers
HRWF (23.01.2024) – On Thursday 18 January, the UK proscribed the Islamist movement Hizb ut-Tahrir al-Islami (Islamic Liberation Party), which the European Court of Human Rights had in previous decisions identified as a political organization and not a (new) religious movement in Islam, as some organizations sometimes did when defending their members arbitrarily or not arrested and imprisoned.
On 15 January, British Home Secretary James Cleverly had submitted an order to parliament to proscribe Hizb ut-Tahrir under the UK’s Terrorism Act. The secretary called the group “an antisemitic organization that actively promotes and encourages terrorism, including praising and celebrating the appalling 7 October attacks.”
The accusations of anti-Semitism and terrorism are rejected by the British Centre of Hizb ut-Tahrir and are not endorsed by all observers of and researchers about Hizb ut-Tahrir.
Hizb ut-Tahrir, the 80th movement proscribed as an international terrorist organization by the UK
Under the Terrorism Act 2000, the Home Secretary may proscribe an organisation if they believe it is concerned in terrorism, and it is proportionate to do. For the purposes of the act, this means that the organisation:
- commits or participates in acts of terrorism
- prepares for terrorism
- promotes or encourages terrorism (including the unlawful glorification of terrorism)
- is otherwise concerned in terrorism
The official text of the UK’s decision says:
“Hizb ut-Tahrir is an international Sunni Islamist political organisation which was founded in Jerusalem in 1953 by Sheikh Taquiddin an-Nabhani. Hizb ut-Tahrir has a footprint in at least 32 countries, with its headquarters and Central Media Office (CMO) based in Beirut, Lebanon. The CMO runs Hizb ut-Tahrir’s central propaganda website hizb-ut-tahrir.info.
Hizb ut-Tahrir’s stated long-term goal is to unify Muslims worldwide and establish a Caliphate ruled under Islamic (Shari’a) law. Hizb ut-Tahrir Britain is the official branch of Hizb ut-Tahrir in the UK and was established in the UK in the 1980s. The UK government assess that Hizb ut-Tahrir Britain is a component branch of Hizb ut-Tahrir but is afforded autonomy to interpret and approach Hizb ut-Tahrir’s global strategy according to its local environment.
The UK government assess that Hizb ut-Tahrir, including its national branches, is currently concerned in terrorism, and meets the ‘promotes and encourages’ limb of the statutory test. A number of articles were posted online on Hizb ut-Tahrir’s central media website (and third party websites), attributed to several of Hizb ut-Tahrir’s branches, which celebrated and praised the 7 October 2023 attack by Hamas and associated events. The content of these articles, many of which refer to Hamas as ‘heroes’ and encourage further terrorist activity, constitute the promotion and encouragement of terrorism.”
For the last two decades, Hizb ut-Tahrir had faced the prospect of being labelled and proscribed as a terrorist group in the UK.
Tony Blair and David Cameron threatened to proscribe it when they were in power. But Home Secretary James Cleverly did what many before him in government had failed to do – with support from all parties and no opposition from MPs or members of the House of Lords during the parliamentary session confirming the ban. Statements and actions of the British branch of Hizb ut-Tahrir about Hamas’ terrorist attack against Israel on 7 October offered the Home Secretary an ideal opportunity to get a political consensus.
From midnight on Friday 19 January, the group was classified as a terrorist group and banned from organising in the UK. Belonging to or promoting Hizb ut-Tahrir is now punishable by up to 14 years in prison, according to the official statement.
In the last twenty years, several countries have banned Hizb ut-Tahrir for its ideology, its statements and its positions: Germany, Egypt, Bangladesh, Pakistan, several Central Asian and Middle Eastern countries such as Saudi Arabia, with many members arrested for alleged attempts to instigate coups in Muslim-majority countries.
However, the group is known to be active in Australia, Canada and the United States as well as in dozens of other countries, including Kuwait, Tunisia, Lebanon, India and Kenya.
Concerning the ban of the British branch of Hizb ut-Tahrir, a question arises “Do the ban and possible sentences respect the proportionality principle with regard to the charges related to terrorism?
Hizb ut-Tahrir was founded in 1953 when Israel was still a young state and has a history of not using or promoting violence but times change and so does the geopolitical environment.
We, at Human Rights Without Frontiers, consider that Hizb ut-Tahrir activists are not eligible for the status of victims of violations of religious freedom when carrying out political activities because it is identified by the ECtHR as a Muslim political movement, not a religious community. In our Database of FORB Prisoners in Russia and other countries, we do not include their members. While we contend they cannot be considered FORB prisoners (Article 9 of the European Convention on Human Rights), we consider they can be prisoners of conscience or political prisoners if they are arbitrarily arrested and sentenced to prison terms despite non-violent activities and no incitement to violence.