The London bombings have prompted the UK government to outlaw Hizb ut Tahrir – a radical Islamic group that wants to replace secular governments with an Islamic Caliphate, or super-state run according to Sharia Law.
The group is particularly strong in Central Asia, where it believes it may take the first steps towards establishing its Caliphate.
High in the mountains of poverty-stricken Kyrgyzstan in Central Asia a bearded man with a fierce gaze slices a watermelon. It is a very colourful sight – red drops of juice on the green carpet, with the glistening snow-covered peaks in the distance.
“In this village, people trust us, not the authorities,” says Nur Mohammed, a local leader of Hizb ut Tahrir, which is also banned in Kyrgyzstan.
“Everybody here knows that we will solve their problems quickly and in strict accordance with the Koran. And this suits people a lot better than the slow, bureaucratic and often expensive official route.”…
“We have already won the battles on prostitution, drink and robbery,” says Nur Mohammed.
“All we do is talk to people about the Koran. Sometimes, it requires more than just the skill of persuasion – but in the end, we do come out on top. In our village, nobody even locks their doors now. We’ve taught people to trust each other – and to respect Sharia law.”
But for Hizb ut Tahrir, battles for hearts and minds in small villages like Arslanbob are just routine. The organisation aims much higher.
More than 100km (60 miles) away, in the market town of Kara-Suu, we met Dilior. A carpenter by trade, he lives in a huge house with a lush garden, behind a very high and very thick fence.
Dilior is the official spokesman of Hizb ut Tahrir in southern Kyrgyzstan. Even though his group is banned, scores of journalists visit his house every week.
“All Muslims in the world already want to live in a Caliphate, under Sharia law,” he says. “It will be a huge state, a very powerful state. Even now you are all afraid of us – America, Israel, you in the UK too.”