First Published: 2013-07-30

 

Islamist Hizb ut-Tahrir shows surprising strength... in Ukraine

 

Head of the information office of Hizb ut-Tahrir in Ukraine says party's ambition of reviving Caliphate does not extend to Ukraine and its presence is educational.

 

Middle East Online

By Lilia Budzhurova – SIMFEROPOL (Crimea)

Dream that does not extend to Ukraine

More than a thousand bearded men, muffled in scarves and accompanied by veiled women, stand under the hot sun, waving black and white flags and chanting "Allahu Akbar!" (God is Greatest).

This is not a scene from the Middle East or Central Asia but a rally of the supporters of the Islamist Hizb ut-Tahrir (Party of Freedom) in Simferopol -- the capital of the Ukrainian Black Sea region of Crimea.

Hizb ut-Tahrir seeks to re-establish a Caliphate -- a pan-Islamic state based on Islamic rule like in the medieval era -- across the Middle East and Central Asia.

Banned in several states, it is now showing surprising strength in Crimea, a balmy seaside holiday resort region which has its own substantial Muslim Tatar minority.

The head of the information office of Hizb ut-Tahrir in Ukraine, Fazyl Amzaev, said that the party's ambition of reviving the Caliphate does not extend to Ukraine and its presence is educational.

"Our work in Ukraine does not mean that we act or will act to change the borders of the state," Amzaev said.

"Achieving the goal of establishing the Caliphate is real only in countries with a predominantly Muslim population. But in Ukraine, we, as Muslims, are obliged to inform the society about Islam in its correct form."

The first devotees of Hizb ut-Tahrir appeared in the Crimea in the early 1990s. Twelve percent, or 250,000 of the nearly two million inhabitants of Crimea are Sunni Muslim Crimean Tatars.

Now they number between 2,000 and 15,000 -- Hizb ut-Tahrir does not disclose the true number, claiming only a permanent climb in supporters.

"The world is a big village, and everywhere there is a struggle against Islam in favour of liberal-democratic values," Amzaev said, calling on Ukrainian Muslims not to assimilate but to keep their values.

"The Caliphate is not a threat, but on the contrary is the salvation for mankind amid a crisis of capitalism, democracy and liberal values in general."

Hizb ut-Tahrir al-Islami, established in 1953 in East Jerusalem, has been banned in Russia and several Central Asian countries. It is also outlawed in Germany due to anti-Semitism and anti-Israeli propaganda.

The Spiritual Board of Muslims of Crimea -- the main umbrella group for Muslims in the region -- has already called on the authorities to take a closer look at the group's work in Ukraine.

Its deputy head Aider Ismailov said that Hizb ut-Tahrir's teachings can contradict local religious tradition and practices.

"This party creates a negative image of Islam and Muslims, people are scared of their rallies," he said.

Ismailov is not pushing for the party to be banned in Ukraine, but he considers its ideology harmful.

"We would like to see the government state its position towards a religious-political group which preaches that democracy is a system of unbelief," he said.

Ukraine appears in no hurry to ban Hizb ut-Tahrir, if just because the group simply does not exist in the legal framework of the country -- it is not registered either as a party or as a public or religious organisation.

Party members themselves do not seek for their formalisation, citing ideological reasons.

"Hizb ut-Tahrir in Ukraine does not seek political goals, and our participation in non-Islamic authorities is forbidden by the canons of faith," Amzaev said, saying it neither plans to take part in elections nor seek power.

The authorities so far have taken merely small steps to avoid possible confrontations between Hizb ut-Tahrir members and their opponents, in particular with court decisions trying to ban party rallies.

In June, a court approved a suit from local authorities banning a scheduled rally that could not guarantee order.

Despite the prohibition, the action took place, and the police, as in similar cases in the past, limited themselves to drawing up a protocol on an administrative law violation.

The Crimean members of Hizb ut-Tahrir, however, also behave with extreme care to prevent possible attacks from opponents and punitive actions by the authorities.

In Simferopol, they have no headquarters and their information office is a virtual concept not linked to any postal address.

Amzaev is however a prominent public figure, giving interviews, speaking on television, writing on social networks, and recruiting supporters.

During the last rally of Hizb ut-Tahrir in Simferopol, almost every speaker called on fellow Muslims to aid the Syrian rebels battling the regime of Bashar al-Assad, which sparked protests in the Crimean Tatar community against the possible sending of militants to Syria.

Amzaev said: "We are not recruiting the rebels, but I do not rule out some of the Crimean Tatars fighting against Assad."

 

Iraq forces look to build floating bridge in Mosul

Erdogan ‘not welcome’ to campaign in Austria

Israel bombs Gaza after rocket attack

Ailing Bouteflika 'doing well' despite health scare

Film on Syria's White Helmets wins Academy Award

Libya PM to visit Moscow seeking better ties

Conditions in Libya driving migration to Europe

Is Jordan signalling a shift in its Syria strategy?

11 killed in Syria regime raids

Israeli checkpoint guards shoot Palestinian woman

Saudi Aramco to invest $7 billion in Malaysia oil refinery

Referendum set to be tight race for Turkey’s Erdogan

Cyber attacks in Gulf countries on the rise

Iraqi forces reach key Mosul bridge

UN urges negotiating Syria rivals to avoid insults

EU border agency says migrant rescues encourage traffickers

Israeli officials brace for Gaza war report

Key Egyptian legislator says poverty more dangerous than terrorism

UN chief says disregard for rights 'spreading'

GCC geopolitics spike military sales at IDEX

ISIS has brought Saudi Arabia and the United States closer

Morocco to withdraw from Western Sahara tension zone

Shia leadership struggle ahead after Khamenei and Sistani

The huge risks of Trump’s call to ‘take’ Iraqi oil

Trump set to zero in on Hezbollah in bid to curb Iran

Time bomb of unemployment among Arab youth

Push on IS capital Raqqa gathers momentum

Woman journalist says targeted by hardliners in Sudan

Iran's Ahmadinejad writes open letter to Trump

Iran's Rouhani to run for re-election

Kurdish reporter killed while covering Mosul battle

Libya govt secures ceasefire after Tripoli clashes

Boosting presidental powers will 'stabilise' Turkey, says PM

Saudi Foreign Minister in landmark visit to Iraq

Iraqi forces push deeper into west Mosul

Suicide attacks kill 42 in Syria's Homs

Top US commander in secret Syria trip

Israel to deny Human Rights Watch visas for being ‘biased’

UN considers Syria sanctions over chemical attacks

Saudi Comic-Con slammed as ‘sin’ in online backlash

Jordanians protest government price hikes

Baghdad coordinated anti-IS airstrikes with Damascus says source

New Hamas Gaza leader makes first public appearance

Palestinian protestors clash with Israeli soldiers in West Bank

Jordanian F-16 crashes in Saudi, pilot survives