Hizb-ut Tahrir

Tony Blair wanted to ban the British branch of the Islamic political party Hizb-ut Tahrir after the

After the London bombings of July 2005, Prime Minister Tony Blair announced his intention to ban the British arm of the global Islamic political party, Hizb-ut Tahrir. On Friday 30th March 2007, the same organisation hosted an event at Friends House, Euston, north London, to mark the fifth anniversary of the invasion of Iraq by coalition forces, and to discuss their report, Iraq: A New Way Forward.

Three Hizb-ut Tahrir representatives discussed the occupation of Iraq and the penetration of the broader Muslim world by Western states.

Jamal Harwood, the group's Executive Committee Chairman, asserted somewhat uncontroversially that the military occupation was the main problem in present day Iraq. However, his suggestion that the sectarian violence currently devouring Iraq has been overhyped by the Western media is pure fatuity. He argued that the bulk of the violence in Iraq - 70% of attacks, in fact - is directed at coalition forces.
According to Harwood, the February 2006 bombing of the al-Askari Mosque in Samarra did not result in Shi'a bloodletting. Evidently, the subsequent murder of three Sunni clerics by Shi'ite militants, the targeting of Sunni mosques, and the protests in Najaf, where Shi'a protesters urged their comrades to take revenge, have all been distorted by the Western press.

Sajjad Khan proffered the equally fanciful notion that the War on Terror is simply the latest excuse for Western military, political, and economic interference in the region. Since when did the American and European powers need an excuse, one might well ask? Furthermore, whilst seeking a withdrawal of coalition forces from Iraq is a legitimate position that is rapidly gaining more support in the non-Muslim world, the suggestion that the West end its military and economic penetration of the region is asking far too much and strips bare the inherent utopianism of the organisation.

Taji Mustafa of the Executive Committee was left with perhaps the most difficult sell. He argued that the khilafah, or Caliphate, is the only political structure capable of uniting and stabilising Iraq and the region owing to its history of successful application in the Middle East, and the fact that the khilafah respects Muslim values.

Unsurprisingly, no evidence was provided to demonstrate the willingness of Iraqis to reconstitute the khilafah in the absence of an occupying force.

The discussion at Friends House on what Hizb-ut Tahrir euphemistically term A New Way Forward, suggested a nostalgia for both the Ottoman Caliphate and the so-called Golden Age of Islam. To any casual observer of Islamic history, this must seem like a confused position.

The dawn of Islamic history appeals to Islamists because it corresponds with the rule of the four rightly guided Caliphs. Islam subsequently entered a period of dynastic rule, which is naturally less congruent with the pure vision of Islamists. Hizb-ut Tahrir seem confused, not particularly discerning, or maybe they are just hedging their bets. Furthermore, in not acknowledging the inability of the Prophet Muhammad's first four successors to solve the social and political ills of seventh century Arabia, nor the well-known deficiencies of Ottoman rule, Hizb-ut Tahrir come across as being blinded by their own utopianism.

Thankfully, not everyone present at Friends House was convinced by the sloppy, yet suitably impassioned arrangement of propaganda. One member of the audience asked whether the khilafah should be established immediately or gradually, were the occupying forces to vacate Iraq.

Here's where Hizb-ut Tahrir and many of their Islamist brethren come unstuck. The establishment of the khilafah is partly a human, temporal project, and partly a divine one. Hizb-ut Tahrir - who owe a philosophical debt to the early Muslim Brotherhood - seek only to educate people and prepare the way for the establishment of the khilafah through political engagement. The rest is up to Allah.

It therefore seems odd that Tony Blair wanted to ban what is in many respects a pastoral organisation with delusions of political grandeur.

Some members of Britain's Muslim community say that the group is on the way out, and a number of former members have gone on to form more radical organisations. If the promise of the khilafah is not another opiate of the masses, what was presented recently in London was little more than a loosely conceived utopia offering nothing in the way of a practical or achievable political project. Based on what I witnessed at Friends House, it is difficult to conceive of Hizb-ut Tahrir's purpose as being anything other than an attempt at placating a certain element in Britain's Muslim diaspora.

Tim Collins is studying for his M.Litt in Middle East and Central Asian Security Studies at St Andrews and has an offer to pursue a PhD in Iranian political history at the same institution.
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Is defeat in Stoke the beginning of the end for Paul Nuttall?

The Ukip leader was his party's unity candidate. But after his defeat in Stoke, the old divisions are beginning to show again

In a speech to Ukip’s spring conference in Bolton on February 17, the party’s once and probably future leader Nigel Farage laid down the gauntlet for his successor, Paul Nuttall. Stoke’s by-election was “fundamental” to the future of the party – and Nuttall had to win.
 
One week on, Nuttall has failed that test miserably and thrown the fundamental questions hanging over Ukip’s future into harsh relief. 

For all his bullish talk of supplanting Labour in its industrial heartlands, the Ukip leader only managed to increase the party’s vote share by 2.2 percentage points on 2015. This paltry increase came despite Stoke’s 70 per cent Brexit majority, and a media narrative that was, until the revelations around Nuttall and Hillsborough, talking the party’s chances up.
 
So what now for Nuttall? There is, for the time being, little chance of him resigning – and, in truth, few inside Ukip expected him to win. Nuttall was relying on two well-rehearsed lines as get-out-of-jail free cards very early on in the campaign. 

The first was that the seat was a lowly 72 on Ukip’s target list. The second was that he had been leader of party whose image had been tarnished by infighting both figurative and literal for all of 12 weeks – the real work of his project had yet to begin. 

The chances of that project ever succeeding were modest at the very best. After yesterday’s defeat, it looks even more unlikely. Nuttall had originally stated his intention to run in the likely by-election in Leigh, Greater Manchester, when Andy Burnham wins the Greater Manchester metro mayoralty as is expected in May (Wigan, the borough of which Leigh is part, voted 64 per cent for Brexit).

If he goes ahead and stands – which he may well do – he will have to overturn a Labour majority of over 14,000. That, even before the unedifying row over the veracity of his Hillsborough recollections, was always going to be a big challenge. If he goes for it and loses, his leadership – predicated as it is on his supposed ability to win votes in the north - will be dead in the water. 

Nuttall is not entirely to blame, but he is a big part of Ukip’s problem. I visited Stoke the day before The Guardian published its initial report on Nuttall’s Hillsborough claims, and even then Nuttall’s campaign manager admitted that he was unlikely to convince the “hard core” of Conservative voters to back him. 

There are manifold reasons for this, but chief among them is that Nuttall, despite his newfound love of tweed, is no Nigel Farage. Not only does he lack his name recognition and box office appeal, but the sad truth is that the Tory voters Ukip need to attract are much less likely to vote for a party led by a Scouser whose platform consists of reassuring working-class voters their NHS and benefits are safe.
 
It is Farage and his allies – most notably the party’s main donor Arron Banks – who hold the most power over Nuttall’s future. Banks, who Nuttall publicly disowned as a non-member after he said he was “sick to death” of people “milking” the Hillsborough disaster, said on the eve of the Stoke poll that Ukip had to “remain radical” if it wanted to keep receiving his money. Farage himself has said the party’s campaign ought to have been “clearer” on immigration. 

Senior party figures are already briefing against Nuttall and his team in the Telegraph, whose proprietors are chummy with the beer-swilling Farage-Banks axis. They deride him for his efforts to turn Ukip into “NiceKip” or “Nukip” in order to appeal to more women voters, and for the heavy-handedness of his pitch to Labour voters (“There were times when I wondered whether I’ve got a purple rosette or a red one on”, one told the paper). 

It is Nuttall’s policy advisers - the anti-Farage awkward squad of Suzanne Evans, MEP Patrick O’Flynn (who famously branded Farage "snarling, thin-skinned and aggressive") and former leadership candidate Lisa Duffy – come in for the harshest criticism. Herein lies the leader's almost impossible task. Despite having pitched to members as a unity candidate, the two sides’ visions for Ukip are irreconcilable – one urges him to emulate Trump (who Nuttall says he would not have voted for), and the other urges a more moderate tack. 

Endorsing his leader on Question Time last night, Ukip’s sole MP Douglas Carswell blamed the legacy of the party’s Tea Party-inspired 2015 general election campaign, which saw Farage complain about foreigners with HIV using the NHS in ITV’s leaders debate, for the party’s poor performance in Stoke. Others, such as MEP Bill Etheridge, say precisely the opposite – that Nuttall must be more like Farage. 

Neither side has yet called for Nuttall’s head. He insists he is “not going anywhere”. With his febrile party no stranger to abortive coup and counter-coup, he is unlikely to be the one who has the final say.