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Extremists with caliphate on their minds, not bombs in their belts

Islamist organisation Hizb ut-Tahrir eschews violence, but it has no problem with incendiary rhetoric about the demise of Western democracy

07/03/2010 Islam (The Australia)-WITH his neat beard, wire-rimmed glasses and woollen suit coat over a checked sweater, Uthman Badar has the look of a youthful professor. But the words of the mild-mannered economics PhD student sipping hot chocolate at a Turkish cafe in western Sydney carry the zeal of a revolutionary.

“Democracy is a bankrupt and irrational idea” and “all indicators are pointing to the decline and inevitable collapse of Western ideology”, Badar opines. In the meantime, those dedicated to justice and progress must struggle against “those who seek to live decadent lives off the sweat and blood of the vast majority of humanity”.

Badar is spokesman for the Australian branch of Hizb ut-Tahrir, an international Islamist organisation dedicated to the creation of a transnational Islamic state governed purely by sharia law. In pursuit of that vision, he and an expected 1000 fellow HT members will gather in Sydney this weekend for an international conference to promote their cause.

A contrary view is this assessment from the Australian Strategic Policy Institute: “HT’s platform forbids its members from acts of terror. There’s no clear evidence of HT engaging in the preparation of terrorism. HT’s incitement and encouragement of religious hatred may be enough, however, to convince Islamists to perpetrate terrorist acts.”

ASIO will no doubt find plenty to listen to as HT members from Australia and abroad discuss subjects such as the Western push to ban the burka, the Australian government’s role in “the war on Islam”, and the campaign for a caliphate, described as “the obligation of the age”.

The speakers will include senior Australian HT member Ismail Al-Wahwah who, along with other delegates, was banned from entering Indonesia for an HT conference in 2007, and British veteran Burhan Hanif, who is responsible for university and campus recruitment in Britain .

It is the vitriolic language in its literature, press releases and pronouncements that draws much of the heat on HT. Western treatment of Muslims is condemned as “brutal, vicious and inhumane”, Barack Obama’s foreign policy is “as brutal and barbaric as that of his predecessor” and Australia ‘s is “shameless slavery to the US “. On the subject of the war on terror: “With things like the rule of law and due legal process done away with, the result is the laying bare of a worthless and animalist ideology not worthy of human subscription.” As for Israel , says Badar: “It is an illegitimate state, an occupation. It has to be removed.”

Hizb ut-Tahrir — “the party of liberation” — was formed in Palestine in 1953 with the aim of restoring the caliphate founded by the prophet Mohammed. It operates in more than 40 countries, with an estimated one million adherents, including 5000 to 10,000 hardcore members, says Clive Williams, head of terrorism studies at the Australian National University in Canberra .

HT is banned in China , Egypt , Jordan and much of the Middle East and Central Asia , where it opposes secular regimes it regards as despotic “agents of Western powers”. It has also been banned from public activity in Germany for distributing anti-Semitic literature.

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“When we talk about the question of violence, we mean in regard to the establishment of an Islamic state; it’s not a case of we’re against violence, full stop,” Badar says. “When it comes to Israel , it’s a completely different issue.”

“There’s plenty of evidence they’ve contributed to a mood where people can move easily from absorbing these extreme views to taking action,” ASPI’s Anthony Bergin says. “I think the language they’re using is dangerous in that they’re promoting an us-and-them type mentality, they’re promoting the idea of exclusion and a sense of distrust in the community. And while they’re very careful to keep under the radar in terms of promoting violence, their material is very much along the lines of what would lead a person to adopt extremist views. And you don’t become a terrorist until you’ve got extremist views.”

Despite all the obstacles, Badar says he’s confident the caliphate will come to pass within his lifetime. He says support is growing throughout the Muslim world and Western secular civilisation is doomed, unlikely as it may seem. “If we had predicted the end of the Soviet Union , people would have laughed,” he notes.

Badar believes the caliphate will begin with an Islamic state in a country such as Pakistan or Egypt , and spread steadily through grassroots support and military might to eventually cover all Muslim majority countries and lands previously under Islamic rule, such as Spain and The Philippines. He says Christians and Jews will be welcome as long as they submit to Islamic law.

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