Extremist group Hizb ut-Tahrir sets its sights on Malaysia

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HT demoOf late, there seems to be a number of groups with strange sounding names running around protesting, making demands and injecting their warped views into the debate on critical national issues. Who are these guys? What do they want?

Take, for example, Hizbut Tahrir (HT) which is in the news almost daily these days. What do we really know about them?

As it turns out, they happen to be one of the most dangerous extremist groups ever to have come out of the Middle East. The fact that they have been able to establish themselves here and gain credibility so easily speaks volumes about the kind of nation we are becoming.

Hizb ut-Tahrir (Party of Liberation), a pan-Islamic political organization, was founded in Palestine in 1953 by Taqi al-Din Nabhani, a jurist, cleric, former member of the Muslim Brotherhood and an ardent Wahhabi. Tapping into expectations that a Khalifah (successor or steward) would unite all Islamic lands and people, subjugate the rest of the world and restore Islam to its former glory, HT positioned itself as the party of the Khalifah with a mandate to rule. To this end, it seeks to overthrow existing Muslim governments and set up HT-led Islamic states.

Despite its religious overtones, HT is in fact a very structured totalitarian organization, akin to a disciplined Marxist-Leninist party. All policy decisions are made by its emir, presently Ata Abu Rashta (another Palestinian), and then implemented by local national committees. HT branches (or wilayah) across the world are, therefore, highly coordinated. Candidates for membership undergo two years of indoctrination before becoming full members and then operate within secretive and compartmentalized cell groups.

Unlike groups like al-Qaeda and ISIS which seek to gain power through violent confrontation,  HT works from within to seize control. It focuses on key sectors – particularly the military and bureaucracy – to infiltrate, recruit, indoctrinate and radicalize. They sow dissent against the government, undermine and discredit other Muslim political parties, and press for extraconstitutional change.

All this may, of course, seem a little improbable if not for the fact that HT has been implicated in a series of coup plots in Jordan, Syria, Egypt, Pakistan and Bangladesh. In both Pakistan and Bangladesh, senior military officers recruited by HT were incriminated and subsequently court-martialled or dismissed and HT banned. They continue, however, to have a strong clandestine presence in many of those countries and persist in fermenting military uprisings.

Slide1Their focus on the military is also evident in Malaysia. One of the leaders of HT Malaysia is an imam at a mosque near MINDEF and regularly preaches to hundreds of army personnel. Some of their public statements come fairly close to inciting insubordination within the ranks of the armed forces.

Unsurprisingly, HT is banned or severely curtailed in most Muslim countries including Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Syria, Libya, Morocco, Tunisia, Egypt, Kuwait, Turkey, Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan, and Tajikistan. They are also banned in Russia, France and the Netherlands and restricted in Germany. Denmark and Australia have been also mulling restrictions on HT.

Having failed to gain support in the Middle East, HT moved to Central Asia and the Indian subcontinent. When they ran afoul of Muslim governments there, they shifted their focus to Southeast Asia, particularly Indonesia and Malaysia. A 2007 Khalifah conference in Jakarta drew more than 80,000 participants, one of HT’s largest ever gatherings.

HT Malaysia was established some time in the early 1980s. By 2003 they had set up branches in every major city and were soon holding demonstrations, issuing public statements and hosting ceramahs[i] and conferences nationwide.

Both UMNO[ii] and PAS[iii], whom they see as their main rivals for the allegiance and support of Malaysian Muslims, are constantly attacked and discredited.

UMNO is dismissed as a party unschooled even in the basics of Islam and criticized for a long litany of failures from stonewalling on Sharia to corruption and mismanagement.

With PAS, HT has attempted to steal their thunder by lampooning them for trying to introduce hudud through the legislative process, which they claim is insulting to Islam. HT argues that the Islamic way is to act by diktat, forcibly introducing Islamic law without regard to constitutional niceties.

The Islamic religious establishment has not been spared either. JAKIM’s[iv] efforts at Islamization have been mocked, while some state muftis have been accused of selling out for personal gain and position.

It is clear that HT’s strategy is to position itself as the sole authentic voice of Islam,Slide2 and Malays, in Malaysia; they have already made significant strides towards that objective.

Interestingly, JAKIM’s e-Fatwa website carried an announcement in February this year that HT’s teachings were “haram” and unsuitable for Malaysia. HT has also been identified by Muslim scholars as one of the “deviant” groups operating in the country. None of this, however, has slowed them down.

HT has been adept at exploiting national issues to its advantage. Sensing public discontent over GST, for example, HT quickly declared it haram. Jumping into the ongoing fray between Dr Mahathir and Prime Minister Najib, HT castigated both as equally un-Islamic. POTA[v] was condemned as a western-inspired tool to supress Muslims while the 1MDB[vi] scandal was dismissed as typical of the kufr system that is being practised in Malaysia.

And, of course, it continues to incite religious and racial discord. Last Christmas, for example, it took to warning Muslims that Christians were using Christmas celebrations to seduce Muslims away from their faith through vice, free mingling, illicit sex and other excesses. It demanded that all such public celebrations be banned. This is the kind of hateful and twisted mindset that HT brings to the national conversation on religion in Malaysia.

Given its objectives, it is worth pondering what Malaysia under a HT regime might look like once you cut through the charade.

For one thing, Malaysia will cease to exist as an independent nation, becoming a mere wilayah, perhaps merged with Indonesia, in a supranational extremist conglomerate. Our already beleaguered parliamentary system will be declared kufr and abolished. An extreme version of Sharia law will quickly be enforced – flogging, amputations, stoning and crucifixions will become commonplace. Our monarchical system will be dismantled since the new caliph will assume all spiritual, executive and ceremonial authority.

Slide3Our economy will crumble; foreign investments will dry up and manufacturing will decline as HT becomes increasingly bellicose towards our non-Muslim neighbours and trading partners.

Women will be reduced to mere chattel and confined to their homes. Religious police will roam the streets, invade our bedrooms and monitor every aspect of life to enforce conformity and compliance. All public non-Muslim religious observances will be prohibited if not banned completely. Entertainment, including music and television, will be a thing of the past.

Life for non-Muslims, and indeed for many Muslims, will become too miserable to contemplate and thousands will flee.

Implausible? Not if these extremists have their way, not at the rate they are growing in strength.

Isn’t it high time, therefore, that Malaysians ask themselves, and those in power, some serious questions concerning groups like HT?

Given their objective to overthrow the monarchy, the government and our system of parliamentary democracy, given their history of subversion in other countries and their penchant for instigating armed insurrection, given their views which are so at variance with everything that Malaysia stands for, why is this foreign group allowed to operate so freely here?

And how is a group that is banned in most Muslim countries, considered deviant and deemed haram even by JAKIM able to operate in our country with such impunity?

Instead of going after citizens who are fighting to uphold the constitution, shouldn’t the police be zeroing in on the real threats to national security?

Both UMNO and PAS need to wake up and realize the great disservice they are doing to our nation by politicising religious and racial issues. They are so busy fighting each other that they cannot see the dark and devious forces lurking in the shadows waiting to pick up the pieces.

And no, this is not an endorsement of an UMNO-PAS unity government, only a plea for everyone to stand on guard for our nation and to honour, uphold and defend the constitution of our beloved nation before it falls prey to foreign predators like Hizbut Tahrir.

End notes:

[i] Dialogue sessions

[ii] United Malay National Organization

[iii] Pan-Malaysia Islamic Party

[iv] Department of Islamic Development

[v] Prevention of Terrorism Act

[vi] A multibillion dollar sovereign wealth fund

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