An Islamist extremist group which David Cameron and Tony Blair both attempted to ban has been stepping up its activities in Britain, and is behind a campaign urging the country’s Muslims to support the “liberation” of Palestinians by “Muslim armies”.
Hizb ut-Tahrir Britain, the UK branch of Hizb ut-Tahrir, a global Islamist party which calls for the foundation of an Islamic caliphate and has been banned in some Arab countries, appears to be increasing its presence across the country.
Last month it organised pro-Palestine protests in London and Birmingham which featured calls for Muslim-majority countries to deploy their armies to “liberate” the al-Aqsa mosque in Jerusalem and Palestinians in Gaza.
One former counter-terrorism officer said Hizb ut-Tahrir Britain appeared to be becoming “more confident”, with its activists brandishing large banners and placards featuring with its name.
“We’ve not been in that situation for a long time, where they were openly branding their presence,” the source said.
However, the group is not necessarily publicising its involvement in all cases.
Placards calling for the al-Aqsa mosque to be “liberated” by “Muslim armies” were pictured at a pro-Palestine protest in Luton last weekend.
But, while the placards bear a striking resemblance to those produced by Hizb ut-Tahrir for earlier protests in London and Birmingham, the versions pictured in Luton appeared to have black tape covering the parts of the placards that, in previous protests, had stated “Hizb ut-Tahrir Britain”.
Jonny Newton, head of government relations at the Community Security Trust, which monitors anti-Semitism, said that the group’s activisim in the UK had become “more visible in recent weeks”, adding: “There is little doubt that they have continued to organise and recruit under the radar and without significant scrutiny since the organisation was exposed as anti-Semitic and homophobic in the 1990’s”.
Mr Newton added: “Hizb ut-Tahrir is a global Islamist group, the leadership of which states explicitly anti-Jewish hatred regarding Israel.
It was inevitable that its British supporters would echo some of that sentiment on our streets, because that is what they have been doing for decades: despite repeat complaints from the UK Jewish community about the danger posed by the group, both in its own right and as a potential gateway to more violent Jihadi actions.”
On May 11, Hizb ut-Tahrir’s global leadership issued a statement saying: “The monstrous Jews are spreading their brutal aggression on all parts of Palestine.”
Hizb ut-Tahrir Britain has issued recent material on its Facebook page declaring that it is “incumbent upon every Muslim to call for the armies to mobilise to liberate Palestine and all Muslim lands”.
At one protest in Birmingham on May 16 an activist filmed himself calling for “jihad” to “remove the Zionist” so the “Zionist entity will be no more”.
“We don’t fear the United Nations, British government. We don’t give a damn,” he said.
In an address posted online on May 22, Abdul Wahid, the charismatic chairman of Hizb ut-Tahrir’s UK executive committee, referred to Israel as a “cancerous entity” and said: “It is incumbent upon every Muslim to … call for the armies to mobilise to liberate Palestine and all Muslim lands.”
The 2010 Tory manifesto pledged that a Conservative government would “ban any organisations which advocate hate or the violent overthrow of our society, such as Hizb ut-Tahrir”.
But the organisation has always denied that it advocates violence, and Mr Cameron did not pursue a ban following warnings that one would not be “workable”.
Hizb ut-Tahrir said in a statement on Saturday: “We distinguish between Jewish people as a faith and an ethnicity, and the Zionist military occupation that calls itself a ‘Jewish state’ … In Britain we use the term Zionist entity as we do not recognise the name that it gives itself.
“The demonstration in Luton was a community initiative and not a Hizb ut-Tahrir rally, unlike the simultaneous demonstrations in London and Birmingham on 16th May. The chairman of the executive committee of Hizb ut-Tahrir Britain was invited to speak, along with speakers from other organisations, so the party’s presence was open. However it would be inappropriate to have the party’s name on banners at an event that was not its own.
“Hizb ut-Tahrir does not promote fear, criminality or terrorism. No honest person has ever said this nor does any evidence exist to support this. Hizb ut-Tahrir does not encourage violence against civilians.”