In the first significant public debate as to whether the radical Islamic group Hizb ut-Tahrir should be proscribed, some of the organisation’s most severe critics opposed the move.
The debate, entitled Should Hizb ut-Tahrir be Proscribed?, was chaired by David Goodhart, editor of Prospect magazine, who opened the proceedings by requesting there be no “rants” from the 150-strong audience. He said the ban had been floated by Tony Blair in the wake of July 7 because, it was argued, HT “creates an ideological context in which extremism can flourish”.
For a debate about an organisation described by its critics as hostile to everything the UK stands for, the setting could not have been more British. It was held in what was once William Gladstone’s music room in a building close to the Mall, and tea and biscuits were served.
Imran Waheed, a psychiatrist, opened the batting for HT by saying: “There are many myths I would like to dispel … We are not looking for a Taliban state or one that oppresses women.”
He also denied the organisation was anti-semitic. He said HT had been formed as a non-violent Islamic party in 1953 to replace the “unelected dictators and despots” ruling in much of the Muslim world. The aim was for a caliphate, an Islamic authority, to govern in Muslim countries but the group was not seeking to introduce one into Britain.
“Our members have never resorted to armed struggle,” he said. “They are as likely to use violence as Tony Blair is to pay for his own holidays.”