HT –> Violence Idea Gains Traction

by Nathan Hamm on 5/2/2005

The Globe and Mail has a mostly unremarkable and slightly misleading story on Hizb ut-Tahrir in Central Asia. Misleading because I think it (probably unwittingly) overstates the appeal and health of Hizb ut-Tahrir in the region and unremarkable because it’s more or less all old news to those familiar with the organization’s activities in the region.

What is a welcome development and one I hope to see more of is the “farm team” idea.

Either way, the ban on the group that authorities see as a “farm team” for terrorist organizations such as al-Qaeda hasn’t stopped its expansion across volatile Central Asia, where it seeks to overthrow secular governments and replace them with Islamic rule.

Admittedly, that’s just a way of saying that the local leaders claim that HT is a breeding ground for the big leagues of terrorism. However, this point of view — for which “farm team” is a perfect analogy — is rarely given ink. The story goes on to provide evidence that HT members are in fact moving on to terrorism.

Ibrahim Mirzajanov, a 21-year-old Uzbek who has spent more than three years in jail for religious activity, said he knows Muslims who worked non-violently with Hizb ut-Tahrir, but have now grown angry.

“The more there has been a crackdown, [the more] they have joined more violent militant groups because they want things to happen faster,” he said. “They are fed up with Hizb ut-Tahrir because they say they have not been able to change anything.”

Ibrahim can say this is happening for whatever reason he wants really. We often ascribe self-serving motivations to explain away our actions. While I certainly do think that the lack of a thriving marketplace of political ideas enhances the power and appeal of secretive extremist groups like Hizb, there still exists the fact that the party is radicalizing its members. It is perfectly reasonable to believe that members, frustrated that faith alone is not bringing back the caliphate, are moving on to violence out of frustration. Because, you know, it has happened before.

Rohan Gunaratna, an associate professor at the Institute of Defense and Strategic Studies in Singapore, said some senior al-Qaeda men are former Hizb ut-Tahrir members, including Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, the alleged mastermind of the Sept. 11 attacks, and Iraq’s most wanted terrorist, Jordanian Abu Musab al-Zarqawi.

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– author of 2991 posts on 17_PersonNotFound.

Nathan is the founder and Principal Analyst for Registan, which he launched in 2003. He was a Peace Corps Volunteer in Uzbekistan 2000-2001 and received his MA in Central Asian Studies from the University of Washington in 2007. Since 2007, he has worked full-time as an analyst, consulting with private and government clients on Central Asian affairs, specializing in how socio-cultural and political factors shape risks and opportunities and how organizations can adjust their strategic and operational plans to account for these variables. More information on Registan's services can be found here, and Nathan can be contacted via Twitter or email.

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