The group aims to create a global Caliphate, uniting all Muslims under Shariah. Where al Qaeda has failed, a group in expansion from China to Indonesia may succeed. It attracts members of the middle class, elite intellectuals and women, targeting the secular and democratic system “from within”.
Jakarta (AsiaNews / Agencies) – The Islamic movement Hizbut Tahrir, already present in many nations of the world, could succeed where the project of setting up al-Qaeda terror network created by Osama bin Laden failed to become a supranational body, capable of spreading a radical vision of Islam and unite the Muslims around the world (in a Caliphate), under Shariah (Islamic law). To reach their goal, the group’s leaders have identified a target of people thus far relegated – often – to the edge of the fight against extremism: university students, businessmen, professionals, engineers and even housewives. A network composed of white collar fundamentalist and a far cry from the image of the illiterate, poor fighter raised according to the fanatical jihadist version of the teachings of the Koran.
Active in 45 countries in the world today the Hizbut Tahrir movement is expanding, especially in Asia, spreading the radical Muslim vision from Malaysia to China. It is aimed at middle and upper classes, the elite leadership and while its project of the creation of an Islamic “umma” still seems far away, it is already undermines governments’ struggle to control extremism and promote a system of democratic government, as is clearly the case in Indonesia.
Rochmat Labib, president of the wing of the Indonesian group, reveals that the plan over the next five or 10 years is to “strengthen the people’s lack of confidence” in what he calls the regime, or the government in Jakarta. “That’s what we are doing – adds the Islamic leader – to convert people from democracy, secularism and capitalism to Islamic ideology.” Meanwhile, the Hizbut Tahrir – which means “Party of Liberation” – is growing exponentially in the United States, having long operated in the shadows since its beginnings dating back to the early 90s.
Banned in some countries, the movement is legal in many others including the USA, Great Britain, Australia and Indonesia. In many cases it operates at the limits of legality and is now aiming to spread especially in Asia, from Malaysia, Pakistan, to China where it is accused by Beijing of fomenting the Uyghur riots in Xinjiang. It is also the most popular and persecuted radical Islamic group in Central Asia.
Asked about the situation in China Zhang Jiadong, of Fudan University, calls the group one of the “most dangerous terrorist organizations,” because it exerts a greater influence “on the common people.” Hizbut Tahrir has at least 20 thousand followers in China and “more than terrorist attacks, it foments revolts and mass movements.” For the U.S. State Department, however, it could provide “indirect” support for terrorism, but there is “no evidence” that it has orchestrated any attacks. It is more likely that its members have led attacks under the “guidance” of other fundamentalist groups. Documents published recently show that Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, the mastermind of the massacres of September 11, had ties to Hizbut Tahrir, also the former head of al Qaeda in Iraq Abu Musab al-Zarqawi apparently has contacts with the movement, but of these two figures there is no certain and irrefutable evidence.