A radical Islamic group yesterday drew 1,000 delegates to a London conference as it debated how to fend off Prime Minister Tony Blair’s plans to ban it in Britain.
Hizb ut-Tahrir leaders also used the forum to react angrily to new claims that the organisation – already barred from operating in universities – is engaged in a secret campaign to recruit students to its cause.
The political group, which advocates the establishment of a theocratic state and Islamic governance in the Middle East, is likely to be targeted by the Government in any crackdown on alleged radicals in the wake of the London bombings.
Dr Imran Waheed, the Birmingham-based spokesman for Hizb ut-Tahrir in the UK, denied accusations the group has supported violence or is responsible for the radicalisation of young Muslims.
He said the conference, held at a Quaker meeting house in Euston, central London, was intended to prove his organisation was not engaged in “evil ideology”.
The meeting, which follows a similar event last month, may be seen as part of a charm offensive aimed at fending off Mr Blair’s threat to have the organisation proscribed. Leaders of the group are also understood to be ready to fight the Government in the courts if it attempts to ban them in any assault on suspect practitioners of Islamic militancy.
“This conference comes as our work is in the spotlight and as some of those who work to see the return of the Caliphate have been labelled as adherents of an evil ideology,” said Mr Waheed.
“We have invited Muslims and non-Muslims to the event to correct some of those misconceptions and there are around 1,000 people in attendance.”
As I understand it, the National Union of Students has a policy of banning Hizb – dating from, and prompted by, the organisation’s activities back in the early 1990s when Omar Bakri was still a member – but has no authority to impose this on individual student unions, still less on campuses across the UK. Indeed, Middlesex University students’ union has a policy of supporting Hizb’s right to organise. See here.
On the other hand, the Standard‘s piece is considerably more balanced than the witch-hunting lead article in Sunday’s Independent. It’s an indication of the disorientation caused by Islamophobia that on issues such as this the liberal media – which in the past could usually be relied upon to oppose racism and attacks on democratic rights – is no better and in some cases even worse than the right-wing press.