Reuters Karachi Oct 8: They are considered a new breed of Islamic fundamentalists. They study at top British and American schools yet abhor western values, advocate a pan-Islamic state and favour the removal of Pakistan’s pro-US government.
Militancy and violence is not part of their agenda; they want to achieve their “lofty goals” through peaceful and non-violent struggle.
But analysts say such men, fired by the passion of an Islamic renaissance, stand on a thin line dividing political and violent struggle.
Hizb ut-Tahrir (Liberation Party), an international Islamic group with roots from England to Central Asia, is a recent addition to myriad radical organisations striving to enforce “true Islam” in Pakistan, a poor South Asian nation.
The group was outlawed in Pakistan in November 2003, just three years after it started operations, but its members continue undeterred, distributing party literature and holding small meetings in efforts to expand their base.
Pakistan, an ally of the United States in the war on terror, banned several militant Islamic groups, but most re-emerged under new names. Hizb-ut-Tahrir has refused to change its identity despite the closure of offices and the arrest of several members.
British and US nationals of Pakistani origin comprise the backbone of this secretive group formed in Jerusalem in 1953.
It wants to establish a supra-Islamic state on the model of the caliphate as it existed in the early days of Islam.
The group came to Pakistan through second-generation Pakistanis living in the West, particularly Britain and the US. They claim they had supporters in Pakistan for a long time but formal operations took longer to establish.
Many members abandoned what they call the luxuries of the West to come to Pakistan to live among fellow Muslims and work for the country”s transformation into a puritanical Islamic society of their dreams.
“In terms of living standards, England is better. You don’t confront problems such as water shortages, power failures there,” a Hizb member, who works as an executive at a bank, told Reuters, requesting anonymity.
“But you cannot safeguard the Islamic way of life in a western society. You become alienated,” said the 32-year-old, who migrated from his birthplace, London, to Pakistan “” the country of his parents “” two years ago.
“We believe the change will come in the Muslim world from places like Pakistan, where an overwhelming number of people are Islamic-minded,” he said in a clipped British accent.