Countering the Call: The U.S., Hizb-ut-Tahrir, and Religious Extremism in Central Asia

In the context of the global “War on Terror,” radical Islamist organizations require much needed attention. This paper will consider the emergence of Hizb-ut-Tahrir (HT), and its introduction into the states of Central Asia. It will detail the ideology and organization of the party, as well as addressing the panoply of reasons for its popularity and rapid growth in the region. The paper will go on to examine the similarities and difference between HT and other modern Islamist organizations, such as the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan (IMU) and the Muslim Brotherhood. In the context of governmental reaction to these two groups, it will
consider the efficacy of the response of Central Asian governments to HT so far and offer policy options for the U.S. government.

The Emergence of the Hizb-ut-Tahrir

Hizb-ut-Tahrir began as a transnational religious movement founded by Taqiudding an-Nabhani al-Falastani, an ethnic Palestinian, in 1953. The first HT recruits came from the Palestinian section of the Egypt-based al Ikhwan al-Muslimin, otherwise known as the Muslim Brotherhood. This worldwide organization is presently headed by Abd al-Kadim Zallum, also an ethnic Palestinian. Since its founding, HT’s membership has expanded from the Middle East to countries with Muslim populations all around the world.

Hizb-ut-Tahrir pursues international Islamic solidarity in countries with a large Muslim populace. In what appears to be a utopian view of political Islam, HT members strongly adhere to the belief that only the formation of an Islamic state regulated by Shariat, Islamic law, can address the ills of society. HT sees the process of modernization and secularization
in many Muslim-populated countries as a Western plot against the umma, the Muslim community of believers as a whole.