AMMAN, JORDAN — The three middle-aged men sitting in an Indian restaurant in Jordan’s capital scarcely look like Islamic revolutionaries. They are smartly dressed in Western-style suits and sip thoughtfully from cans of Pepsi as they share their plan to reshape the Muslim world.
“[President] Bush says that we want to enslave people and oppress their freedom of speech,” says Abu Abdullah, a senior member of Hizb ut-Tahrir, the Party of Liberation. “But we want to free all people from being slaves of men and make them slaves of Allah.”
In other words, they want to impose Sharia.
Hizb ut-Tahrir says that Muslims should abolish national boundaries within the Islamic world and return to a single Islamic state, known as “the Caliphate,” that would stretch from Indonesia to Morocco and contain more than 1.5 billion people.
It’s a simple and seductive idea that analysts believe may someday allow the group to rival existing Islamic movements, topple the rulers of Middle Eastern nations, and undermine those seeking to reconcile democracy and Islam and build bridges between East and West.
“A few years ago people laughed at them,” says Zeyno Baran, a senior fellow at the Hudson Institute and the leading expert on Hizb ut-Tahrir. “But now that [Osama] bin Laden, [Abu Musab al-] Zarqawi, and other Islamic groups are saying they want to recreate the Caliphate, people are taking them seriously.”
Even more moderate Muslim groups such as the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt pay lip-service to the ideal of reestablishing the Caliphate, leaving less ideological space for Muslims who want to move toward Western models of democracy.
The Brotherhood doesn’t just pay lip service to that idea. It was itself founded in 1928 as a response to the abolition of the caliphate in 1924, and as a reassertion of political Islam.
“The Caliphate is a rallying point between the radicals and the more moderate Islamists,” says Stephen Ulph, a senior fellow at the Jamestown Foundation. “The idea of a government based on the Caliphate has a historical pedigree and Islamic legitimacy that Western systems of government by their very nature do not have.”
What’s a “moderate Islamist,” Ulph? Isn’t an “Islamist” supposed to be someone who wants the rule of political Islam? If so, such an imperative is inherently transnationalistic, and ultimately tends directly to the caliphate.
But unlike Al Qaeda, Hizb ut-Tahrir believes it can recreate the Caliphate peacefully. Its activists aim to pursuade Muslim political and military leaders that reestablishing the Caliphate is their Islamic duty. Once these leaders invite Hizb ut-Tahrir to take power – effectively staging a military coup – the party would then repeat the process in other countries before linking them up to form a revived Caliphate….
“The Muslim world has resources like oil but it lacks the leadership that will rule us by Islamic law and make this jihad that the whole world is afraid of,” says Shakr, a Jordanian member of the group, who says the success of the Caliphate will also encourage more converts to Islam – eventually making the whole world Islamic….
Many analysts say that real danger is that the group radicalizes its followers who may subsequently graduate into militancy.
“People who join won’t necessarily end up as violent jihadists,” says Shiv Malik, a journalist. “But Hizb ut-Tahrir can provide [them with an] ideological backbone.”…
“In Europe they tell Muslims that they have to create parallel societies and that they should not follow European laws,” says Ms. Baran. “If this happens it will impossible for people like me to argue that Islam can be democratic.”
Baran estimates the group has tens of thousands of followers in Central Asia. “They’re stronger in places where people know less about Islam and can’t read the Koran in Arabic,” she says. “They’re not as popular in the Middle East because they don’t get involved in the Palestinian cause.”
Baran is here implying that knowledge of Arabic, the Qur’an, and Islam would take care of this sort of movement. But in fact, as I have shown again and again and again here, it is the mujahedin who constantly buttress their arguments with Qur’anic quotes and material from the Hadith and Islamic jurisprudence, while self-proclaimed moderates deal in vague generalities.
Hizb ut-Tahrir takes a more gradual, long-term strategy for spreading the territory under Muslim rule.
“Islam obliges Muslims to possess power so that they can intimidate – I would not say terrorize – the enemies of Islam,” says Abu Mohammed, a Hizb ut-Tahrir activist. “In the beginning, the Caliphate would strengthen itself internally and it wouldn’t initiate jihad.”
Think about what CAIR does in light of that statement.
“But after that we would carry Islam as an intellectual call to all the world,” says Abu Mohammed, a pseudonym. “And we will make people bordering the Caliphate believe in Islam. Or if they refuse then we’ll ask them to be ruled by Islam.”
In accord with Muhammad’s words, as quoted here in reference to Ahmadinejad.
And after that? Abu Mohammed pauses and fiddles with his Pepsi before replying.
“And if after all discussions and negotiations they still refuse, then the last resort will be a jihad to spread the spirit of Islam and the rule of Islam,” he says, smiling. “This is done in the interests of all people to get them out of darkness and into light.”