“Half echo of the past, half menace of the future; at times, by its bitter, witty and incisive criticism, striking the bourgeoisie to the very heart's core; but always ludicrous in its effect, through its total incapacity to understand the march of mod ern history".
This description of reactionary, feudal "socialists" in the Communist Manifesto of 1848 fits Hizb-ut Tahrir perfectly.
The reactionary Muslim fundamentalist sect Hizb-ut Tahrir (Party of Liberation) is currently locked in a series of campus conflicts with the Union of Jewish Students (UJS). They hate the modern world. The decadence of modern Britain, the racism and the double standards of the bourgeoisie, and the hollowness of "democratic" society give them plenty of excuses. But their programme is to smash all democratic gains and to turn back to an idealised medieval Islamic society. Rather than go forward from the evils of bourgeois society, they want to go back to the past.
Their Islamic state would kill gay men and lesbians and persecute women who transgress very restrictive rules of behaviour. Hizb-ut Tahrir is comprehensively anti-Jewish. Like so
much of the left, Hizb-ut Tahrir deny that their "anti-Zionism" is anti-Semitism, but in practice this comes down to something very like asserting that anti-Semitism is not now possible because "anti-Zionism" is righteous. And that is just a convoluted pseudo-political way of saying that anti-Semitism is justified.
It is understandable that Jewish students call on the state to ban Hizb-ut Tahrir. Understandable, but wrong. UJS has had some success in getting Hizb-ut Tahrir meetings stopped on college campuses in having them banned by student unions. Two weeks ago police were called to Kings College, London, to "escort" Muslim students from a Jewish students' meeting.
Paul Solomon, President of UJS, is quoted in the Guardian as saying "Hizb-ut Tahrir's material is an incitement to violence. There are times when one group's freedom of speech
impinges on that of others."
Yet banning Hizb-ut Tahrir is the wrong response. The last thing the student movement needs is new precedents for banning people who hold unpopular views.
In the mid-1980s Jewish Societies under the perennial threat of being banned for "Zionism". At Sunderland Poly the UJS was banned by idiot "anti-imperialists", backed by various types of anti-Semites.
Hizb-ut Tahrir have used the attempts to deny them the right to speak (a right they do not agree with for others) to denounce their opponents as hypocrites. And this whole approach only ties up the real issue — Hizb- ut Tahrir's politics — with another matter: free speech. People who detest free speech and other democratic liberties are given the chance to win sympathy on a spurious basis. Bans and the use of the police against Hizb-ut Tahrir's Asian members is an utterly bureaucratic and counterproductive response. Right now it is possible to deal with this group, on the level of ideas. That is how they should be dealt with; by debate, vigorous denunciation, leaflets, lobbies and protest meetings if necessary. That way they could be isolated and made harmless. There is another obstacle to doing that, however, in addition to the one erected by the call for banning. That is the cover the left gives to the fundamentalists on the question of Israel.
Hizb-ut Tahrir deliberately focus on Israel and the Jews, playing up to popular anti-Israeli prejudice. A Hizb-ut Tahrir speaker at a meeting in the School of Oriental and African Studies justly pointed out that a Student Union Exec member agreed with him on the question of Israel. They can find sympathy on this issue! Yet this is a group which talks about the "cunning Zionists" and their "plots". Their members say the Holocaust is a "fairly tale". And Hizb-ut Tahrir want to destroy Israel—and leave no one wondering what would happen to the Israeli Jews if they got their way: "we only need to win once!" Those who find themselves acting as cover for those people and agreeing with them on Israel should take a long cool look at themselves!
Editorial in Socialist Organiser 10 November 1994