Muslims and the Caliphate

A top representative of the Islamist organization Hizb ut-Tahrir responds to FP's Christian Caryl.

Daniel Berehulak/Getty Images
Daniel Berehulak/Getty Images

Abdul Wahid, chairman of the UK Executive Committee of Hizb ut-Tahrir, writes in to take issue with Christian Caryl’s Dec. 22 column, "Reality Check: The Party’s Not Over":

This article raises some pertinent questions but also repeats many inaccuracies.  

As was rightly said, our organisation has grown in number, strength and influence over 60 years with a clear purpose, never deviating from its intellectual and political method. Our ideas have become more detailed and refined over the decades. In the past 12 months alone Hizb ut-Tahrir has presented work on the Global Financial Crisis and Islam’s alternative economic model; in Denmark we published a paper on the Copenhagen Summit on climate change; in Indonesia we gathered 6,000 international Islamic scholars in the summer of 2009 following their 2007 conference that had over 100,000 attendees. These examples (and many others) render the comparisons people make with others as misplaced.

Over the decades, the Muslim world has moved from a skeptical view of our goal (to revive Islam as its basis for political life and re-establish the Caliphate) to one that enjoys support levels in excess of 70 percent of the population according to some polls.

This increasing level of support for Islam’s political ideas — in particular the Caliphate — illustrates the real questions that should be asked in the West. That is, how the West can understand and dialogue with this viewpoint? It is a shame the article chose not to address this.

Our model offers the Muslim world much needed stability; whereas the policies of Britain, the United States, and their allies are the cause and actively perpetuates the chaos and instability. Hizb ut-Tahrir is influenced by Islam alone; our weapons are nothing except ideas and words; our goal is liberation of the Muslim world from colonialism and the restoration of the Caliphate so that people can live in security and under justice; and we sincerely believe the support for this aim will grow ever stronger.

Christian Caryl responds:

Mr. Wahid’s assertion that the majority of Muslims automatically concur with the goals of his party is an intriguing one. Yes, the poll he cites does indeed show majority support for the idea of restoring the Caliphate. Yet I wonder how many of the same respondents would agree with this if they were asked at the same time whether they would be willing to do so if it meant surrendering the national sovereignty of the countries in which they live today. I suspect that many of them would then decline the offer. The same poll cited by Mr. Wahid also shows that "67 percent of those surveyed agree that ‘a democratic political system’ is a good way to govern their country and 82 percent agree that in their country ‘people of any religion should be free to worship according to their own beliefs’" — both principles that would hardly apply under the terms of the global Islamic state that Mr. Wahid’s party has in mind. (His party consistently assails the notion of representative democracy, for example.)

In short, I don’t doubt that most Muslims around the world would like to see a greater role for Islamic values in many of their societies. Nor do I believe that most Muslims approve of armed intervention in their affairs by the countries of the West. But I certainly don’t think that any of this means that Hizb ut-Tahrir would automatically win all their votes in a free election, or that they have somehow chosen it to act as a mediator between them and existing governments around the world. And it means even less that democratic societies, in the West or elsewhere, should necessarily treat Mr. Wahid’s party as a legitimate interlocutor. A self-respecting democratic society must respect all religions; this does not mean that it should make life easy for religious ideologies that aim at its demise.

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