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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As long as Jeremy Corbyn's Labour opponents are divided, he will rule

The leader's foes have yet to agree on when and how a challenge should take place.

Labour MPs began plotting to remove Jeremy Corbyn as leader before he even held the position. They have not stopped since. From the outset, most regarded him as electorally and morally defective. Nothing has caused them to relinquish this view.

A week before the first major elections of this parliament, Labour found itself conducting a debate normally confined to far-right internet forums: was Hitler a Zionist? For some MPs, the distress lay in how unsurprised they were by all this. Since Corbyn’s election last September, the party has become a mainstream venue for hitherto fringe discussions.

Many MPs believe that Labour will be incapable of rebuilding its standing among the Jewish community as long as Corbyn remains leader. In the 1930s, Jewish support for the party was as high as 80 per cent. “They handed you your . . . membership just after your circumcision,” quipped the father in the 1976 television play Bar Mitzvah Boy. By the time of the last general election, a poll found that support had fallen to a mere 22 per cent. It now stands at just 8.5 per cent.

Corbyn’s critics cite his typical rejection of anti-Semitism and "all forms of racism" (as if unable to condemn the former in isolation), his defence of a tweet sent by his brother, Piers (“Zionists can’t cope with anyone supporting rights for Palestine”), and his description of Hamas and Hezbollah as “friends”. The Lab­our leader dismissed the latter remark as a diplomatic nicety but such courtesy was not displayed when he addressed Labour Friends of Israel and failed to mention the country’s name. When challenged on his record of combating anti-Semitism, Corbyn frequently invokes his parents’ presence at the Battle of Cable Street, a reference that does not provide the reassurance intended. The Jewish community does not doubt that Labour has stood with it in the past. It questions whether it is prepared to stand with it in the present.

MPs say that Labour’s inept response to anti-Semitism has strengthened the moral case for challenging Corbyn. One shadow cabinet minister spoke of how the fear of “enormous reputational damage” had pushed him to the brink of resignation. As the New Statesman went to press, Corbyn’s first electoral test was looming. Every forecast showed the party on course to become the first opposition to lose council seats in a non-general-election year since 1985. Yet Corbyn appeared to insist on 3 May that this would not happen, gifting his opponents a benchmark by which to judge him.

Sadiq Khan was projected to become the party’s first successful London mayoral candidate since 2004. But having distanced himself from Corbyn throughout the race, he intends to deny him any credit if he wins. Regardless of the results on 5 May, there will be no challenge to the Labour leader before the EU referendum on 23 June. Many of the party’s most Corbyn-phobic MPs are also among its most Europhile. No cause, they stress, should distract from the defence of the UK’s 43-year EU membership.

Whether Corbyn should be challenged in the four weeks between the referendum and the summer recess is a matter of dispute among even his most committed opponents. Some contend that MPs have nothing to lose from trying and should be prepared to “grind him down” through multiple attempts, if necessary. Others fear that he would be empowered by winning a larger mandate than he did last September and argue that he must be given “longer to fail”. Still more hope that Corbyn will instigate a midterm handover to the shadow chancellor, John McDonnell, his closest ally, whom they regard as a beatable opponent.

Those who are familiar with members’ thinking describe many as “anxious” and in need of “reassurance” but determined that Corbyn receives adequate time to “set out his stall”. One shadow cabinet minister spoke of being “caught between Scylla and Charybdis” – that is, “a Labour Party membership which is ardently Corbynista and a British electorate which is ardently anti-Corbynista”. In their most pessimistic moments, some MPs gloomily wonder which group will deselect them first. The possibility that a new Conservative leader could trigger an early general election is cited by some as cause for haste and by others as the only means by which Corbynism can be definitively discredited.

The enduring debate over whether the Labour leader would automatically make the ballot if challenged (the party’s rules are ambiguous) is dismissed by most as irrelevant. Shadow cabinet members believe that Corbyn would achieve the requisite nominations. Momentum, the Labour leader’s praetorian guard, has privately instructed its members to be prepared to lobby MPs for this purpose.

There is no agreement on who should face Corbyn if his removal is attempted. The veteran MP Margaret Hodge has been touted as a “stalking horse” to lead the charge before making way for a figure such as the former paratrooper Dan Jarvis or the shadow business secretary, Angela Eagle. But in the view of a large number of shadow cabinet members, no challenge will materialise. They cite the high bar for putative leaders – the endorsement of 20 per cent of Labour MPs and MEPs – and the likelihood of failure. Many have long regarded mass front-bench resignations and trade union support as ­essential preconditions for a successful challenge, conditions they believe will not be met less than a year after Corbyn’s victory.

When Tony Blair resigned as Labour leader in 2007, he had already agreed not to fight the next general election and faced a pre-eminent rival in Gordon Brown. Neither situation exists today. The last Labour leader to be constitutionally deposed was J R Clynes in 1922 – when MPs, not members, were sovereign. Politics past and present militate against Corbyn’s opponents. There is but one man who can remove the leader: himself.

George Eaton is political editor of the New Statesman.

This article first appeared in the 06 April 2016 issue of the New Statesman, The longest hatred