“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-
This description of reactionary, feudal "socialists" in the
Communist Manifesto of 1848 fits Rizb-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 some-
thing very like asserting that anti-Semitism is not now possi-
ble because "anti-Zionism" is righteous. And that is just a
convoluted pseudo-political way of saying that anti-Semitism
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 stu-
dent unions. Two weeks ago police were called to Kings
College, London, to "escort" Muslim students from a Jewish
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 thai 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
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 tree 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 denun-
ciation, 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 "fair-
ly 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
Editorial in Socialist Organiser 10 11 1994