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.
Photo: Getty
Show Hide image

Michael Carrick is the “Geordie Pirlo” that England misunderstood

The Manchester United legend’s retirement announcement should leave Three Lions fans wondering what if?

That it came in the months leading up to a World Cup arguably added an exclamation point to the announcement of Michael Carrick’s impending retirement. The Manchester United midfielder, who is expected to take up a coaching role with the club afterwards, will hang up his boots at the end of the season. And United boss Jose Mourinho’s keenness to keep Carrick at Old Trafford in some capacity only serves to emphasise how highly he rates the 36-year-old.

But Carrick’s curtain call in May will be caveated by one striking anomaly on an otherwise imperious CV: his international career. Although at club level Carrick has excelled – winning every top tier honour a player based in England possibly can – he looks set to retire with just 34 caps for his country, and just one of those was earned at a major tournament.

This, in part, is down to the quality of competition he has faced. Indeed, much of the conversation around England’s midfield in the early to mid-noughties centred on finding a system that could accommodate both box-to-box dynamos Steven Gerrard and Frank Lampard.

As time went on, however, focus shifted towards trequartistas, advanced playmakers and those with more mobile, harrying playing styles. And the likes of Jack Wilshere, Ross Barkley, Jordan Henderson and Dele Alli were brought into the frame more frequently than Carrick, whose deep-lying capabilities were not utilised to their full potential. That nearly 65 per cent of Carrick’s England caps have come in friendlies shows how undervalued he was. 

In fairness, Carrick does not embody similar characteristics to many of his England midfield contemporaries, including a laudable lack of ego. He is not blessed with lung-busting pace, nor is he enough of a ball-winner to shield a back four solo. Yet his passing and distribution satisfy world-class criteria, with a range only matched, as far as England internationals go, by his former United team-mate Paul Scholes, who was also misused when playing for his country.

Rather, the player Carrick resembles most isn’t English at all; it’s Andrea Pirlo, minus the free-kicks. When comparisons between the mild-mannered Geordie and Italian football’s coolest customer first emerged, they were dismissed in some quarters as hyperbole. Yet watching Carrick confirm his retirement plans this week, perfectly bearded and reflecting on a trophy-laden 12-year spell at one of world football’s grandest institutions, the parallels have become harder to deny.

Michael Carrick at a press event ahead of Manchester United's Champions League game this week. Photo: Getty.

Where other players would have been shown the door much sooner, both Pirlo and Carrick’s efficient style of play – built on patience, possession and precision – gifted them twilights as impressive as many others’ peaks. That at 36, Carrick is still playing for a team in the top two of the top division in English football, rather than in lower-league or moneyed foreign obscurity, speaks volumes. At the same age, Pirlo started for Juventus in the Champions League final of 2015.

It is ill health, not a decline in ability, which is finally bringing Carrick’s career to a close. After saying he “felt strange” during the second-half of United’s 4-1 win over Burton Albion earlier this season, he had a cardiac ablation procedure to treat an irregular heart rhythm. He has since been limited to just three more appearances this term, of which United won two. 

And just how key to United’s success Carrick has been since his £18m signing from Tottenham in 2006 cannot be overstated. He was United’s sole signing that summer, yielding only modest excitement, and there were some Red Devils fans displeased with then manager Sir Alex Ferguson’s decision to assign Carrick the number 16 jersey previously worn by departed captain Roy Keane. Less than a year later, though, United won their first league title in four years. The following season, United won the league and Champions League double, with Carrick playing 49 times across all competitions.

Failing to regularly deploy Carrick in his favoured role – one that is nominally defensive in its position at the base of midfield, but also creative in providing through-balls to the players ahead – must be considered one of the most criminal oversights of successive England managers’ tenures. Unfortunately, Carrick’s heart condition means that current boss Gareth Southgate is unlikely to be able to make amends this summer.

By pressing space, rather than players, Carrick compensates for his lack of speed by marking passing channels and intercepting. He is forever watching the game around him and his unwillingness to commit passes prematurely and lose possession is as valuable an asset as when he does spot an opening.

Ultimately, while Carrick can have few regrets about his illustrious career, England fans and management alike can have plenty. Via West Ham, Spurs and United, the Wallsend-born émigré has earned his billing as one of the most gifted midfielders of his generation, but he’d never let on.

Rohan Banerjee is a Special Projects Writer at the New Statesman. He co-hosts the No Country For Brown Men podcast.