Hizbut Tahrir's network includes an active center in
London. Nobody knows who funds them. What is well-known is that it is a very
rich organization and that their purpose is to destabilize western
societies. Read exclusive report on the rise of this radical organization in
Hizbut Tahrir, an extremist organization, openly opposing the theme of war
on terror and banned in more than 20 countries, has recently intensified its
notorious activities in Bangladesh.
Taking the excuse of protesting the cartoons of Prophet Mohammed (PBUH)
published in a Danish newspaper, this organization called for Grand Rally
and procession to set seize at the Danish Embassy in Dhaka recently. Their
program however was stopped by members of law enforcing agencies in
Bangladesh. Later, this organization started campaign against Danish
products exported to Bangladesh. Initially, they picked up a popular milk
powder named Dano. Millions of posters were already circulated in the
country, which might cost a large amount of money. Earlier the same
organization distributed millions of posters protesting the cartoons.
On investigation, it was revealed that, Hizbut Tahrir was lead by some
teachers of Dhaka University. Although it was not allowed for the government
job holders to participate into any political parties, affiliation of Dhaka
University teachers in this extremist organization is still being ignored by
Bangladesh authorities for unknown reason. It is also learnt that, this
organization is receiving millions of dollar from unknown sources. Although
some of the intelligence wings of the country are already monitoring the
activities of Hizbut Tahrir, there is virtually no initiative by the
government to ban it in Bangladesh, taking the instance of many countries in
On condition of anonymity, a source in Hizbut Tahrir told this correspondent
that, their leaders are having excellent relations with some of the top
figures in al Qaeda. The source further added saying that, their ultimate
goal is to capture power in Bangladesh and turn the country into an Islamic
republic. Hizbut Tahrir openly opposes democracy and existing judicial
system in the world. They promote Islamic Sharial law in all the courts.
Meanwhile, a secret meeting of some of the notorious cadres of this
organization held on 27th February at Sea Palace restaurant at city's Uttara
area. This meeting was although called in the name of seminar, but on
practical investigation, it was found that, there was no any seminar of
Hizbut Tahrir at the mentioned location. Rather, some of the derailed youths
were seen at the program listening to sermons by the leaders of Hizbut
Tahrir, mostly with provocation of Jihad. The speakers were strongly
criticizing democracy saying it was the rules of devils. They categorically
told their palls that United States is master mind of spreading democracy in
the world to damage Islam. They called upon their supporters to stand
against democracy and promote Islamic law in Bangladesh. It may be recalled
here that, recently banned Jamiatul Mujahedin Bangladesh (JMB) also started
its activities a few years back in the same way of Hizbut Tahrir, when the
government was seen reluctant in taking any actions. Experts opine that,
Hizbut Tahrir will also turn into a potential threat to the country in near
Another source confirms that recently some Bangladeshis who fought against
Israel in Palestine and in Afghan war (in favour of Talibans) joined Hizbut
Tahrir. The supremos of Hizbut Tahrir are actively considering to begin
orientation, motivation and training courses for their supporters to prepare
them for any Jihad.
Meanwhile, we have got various information on this extremist group. In one
of such information, it was revealed that, Hizbut Tahrir was founded in
Jerusalem 50 years ago and banned in many countries, Hizbut Tahrir is using
the war in Iraq to seek converts to its cause: uniting Muslims in an Islamic
superstate. Since the war began, hundreds of Hizbut Tahrir members have
gathered outside the United States and British embassies in Jakarta chanting
"destroy America" and demanding the implementation of Islamic law in
Indonesia. According to Muhammad Ismail Yusanto, a spokesman for Hizbut
Tahrir, the war offers the group an opportunity to broaden its appeal.
"This will make people more aware about injustice, crimes against humanity
and the urgency of Islamic power," says Yusanto. "I think the people will
see the existence of Hizbut Tahrir as more relevant."
It is easy to see why Yusanto is optimistic. Indonesian protests against war
in Iraq have been spearheaded by Islamic groups. Umar Juoro, director of a
Jakarta-based think-tank, expects popular resentment against the American
action to grow in Indonesia, the world's largest Muslim country, especially
if combat drags on and Iraqi civilian casualties mount.
Yusanto claims that Hizbut Tahrir already has about 100,000 members in
Indonesia and chapters in every province. While that number is difficult to
verify, the group has shown the ability to mobilize street protests in
Jakarta, Makassar in South Sulawesi and the central Javanese city of
Jogjakarta. Sidney Jones, the Jakarta-based Indonesia project director of
International Crisis Group, a think-tank, says Hizbut Tahrir has grown
rapidly in pockets of the country like South Sulawesi, and likely has a
wider following than other radical Islamic groups that have sprung up over
the past few years.
"Hizbut Tahrir's appeal is a mixture of different things," says Jones. "It
is a genuinely international organization with deep roots in the Middle East
and with, in some ways, the deepest commitment to Islam of all [radical
Islamic groups]. And they are deeply and articulately anti-Western." As a
group that has spent all but three years of its two-decade existence in
Indonesia keeping a low profile, it's an example of how radical Islam, long
shut out from Indonesian public life, has found a small but vocal following
in the country.
Unlike, say, the Justice Party, with whom it shares a purist vision of an
Islamic state and advocates strict segregation of the sexes, Hizbut Tahrir
is not a political party. The movement was founded in Jerusalem in 1953 by a
retired Palestinian judge educated in Egypt. It condemns democracy as
un-Islamic and does not participate in elections, preferring to spread its
message through books and leaflets and through mosques, especially in
universities. Hizbut Tahrir says it's nonviolent, and it is not believed to
have any ties with the Al Qaeda-linked terrorist organization Jemaah
Islamiah, which is said to seek a united Muslim state in Southeast Asia.
Hizbut Tahrir's ideas came to Indonesia in the early 1980s. They soon spread
to a group of students at the elite Bogor Agricultural University. Fearful
of then-President Suharto's hostility towards Islamic radicals, the group's
first members would meet under the guise of studying the Koran.
Like many other radical Islamic groups, Hizbut Tahrir has operated openly in
Indonesia since shortly after the fall of Suharto in 1998. Hizbut Tahrir
members can now be found leading anti-American chants outside the U.S.
embassy. But some secrecy remains. Yusanto will talk about the group's
current worldwide leader and its history in Indonesia, but he refuses to
reveal the identity of the current leader in Indonesia. Some supporters
decline to give their names to journalists. "We have to be very careful,"
says Yusanto, referring to the possibility that the Indonesian government
may one day crack down on Hizbut Tahrir. "We cannot predict the future."
Accoding to information, Hizbut Tahrir is a Middle East-based political
organization. Its Indonesian branch advocates sharia through public rallies
and campaign. They argued that the Indonesian government should run the
economy according to Islamic principles. Their well-known slogan is "sharia
is the answer." Its main mastermind Omar Bakri says, "With Afghanistan gone,
the Muslims don't really have a place where they can come back to, regroup
and have time to think and relax without the authorities breathing down
Hizbut Tahrir also advocates the establishment of a "khilafah Islamiyah" -a
global Islamic state composed of all the Muslims in the world. Yusanto said
the recent establishment of the European Union, where the currency is united
and the borders are opened, should illustrate that in the future European
states are going to be even more closely united."
In one of the sites, the extremist organization claims that, Hizbut Tahrir
("Party of Liberation") argue that Islam is no longer a powerful force in
world politics because Muslims have been divided by a nation-state system
imposed by the West.
Muslims must therefore reject Western forms of government, including
democracy, and reestablish the caliphate as a government for all Muslims.
Like "Hizbut Tahrir", "neo-Salafi" groups reject democracy as un-Islamic,
but they believe that violent struggle is not necessary to resist efforts by
the United States and Israel to destroy Islam.
Another site says, Hizb ut Tahrir is one of the most radical groups
operating in the world today and is an offshoot of Al Muhajiroun, whose
leader Omar Bakri Mohammed broke away from HT to form what became AM. To
permit Hizb ut Tahrir to hold a conference openly calling for the
implementation of the Khalifate in the world is a travesty on the war on
terror and will only attract those who will follow in the footsteps of the
Hizbut Tahrir Indonesia (HTI) has called upon Muslims and the group's
supporters, particularly from the military, to fight for an Islamic
"Hizbut Tahrir calls on you, including those who are from the military, to
establish a caliphate together with Hizbut Tahrir, starting now," the HTI
Chairman KH [religious title] Muhammad Al Khaththath said in front of 5,000
Muslims gathered at Al-Azhar Grand Mosque in Jakarta on 2 September.
He stressed that Muslim unity in Indonesia and the world will make Islamic
followers become strong, so they would be able to establish an Islamic
government resembling that of the era of Prophet Muhammad and his successor
caliphs. Meanwhile, HTI spokesman Ismail Yusanto said that this mass
gathering was intended to remind Muslims of the Islamic government system or
caliphate as one of the most important Islamic teachings. A caliphate would
become a main pillar for the full implementation of Islamic law and Muslim
unity in the world.
Islam's new face?
'When the right time comes, we shall achieve our goal,'
says a smiling, bright-eyed Mohiuddin Ahmed. As the head of Hizb ut-Tahrir
in Bangladesh, he is an Islamist revolutionary with a twist. Having
graduated from Bangladesh's top business school, the Institute of Business
Administration at Dhaka University, with enviable scores, Mohiuddin
presently teaches the same corporate strategies and 'cash-cow' principles at
his alma mater that his teacher's had taught him. But the number of students
attending his business classes are dwarfed by the attendance at the Chhatra
Sabha (Students' Society) sessions of the Hizb ut-Tahrir. He and others like
him represent the new face of the Islam-based religious politics that is
slipping into the mainstream of Bangladeshi consciousness. Unlike in the
past, his foot soldiers are career-oriented, upwardly mobile young men, and
women, from the country's public and mushrooming private universities.
Almost tip-toeing into the 'ideological vacuum' left from the aimless
student politics of mainstream student bodies, Hizb ut-Tahrir is, to use the
own words of a gleeful Mohiuddin, 'selling the time-proved cocktail of
popular discontent and faith.' And they are selling good.
But there is the catch. What this ever-growing number of 'modern Muslims'
envision, with intoxicating and chilling precision, contradicts the
principles of conventional liberal, democratic and secular society, and
nations that abide by it.
For a man who is the chief coordinator and spokesperson of a religion-based
political party presently banned in several Middle Eastern states,
throughout Central Asia, Germany (the reason cited was anti-Semitism) and
Pakistan, Mohiuddin couldn't appear any less worried. 'We have done nothing
to instigate such a response. We do not believe in any form of violence, or
force,' he explains. When asked about the size of the membership roll, but
Mohiuddin claims that figure is not compiled. What he does reveal is that
attendance in the monthly seminars they hold is in the region of 250 - 300,
and not always the same people.
Hizb ut-Tahrir was founded in Jerusalem in 1953 by an appeals court judge,
Taqiuddin al Nabhani. Initially the group's operations were restricted to
the Arab countries. The group first appeared in Jordan and Saudi Arabia.
Today, Hizb ut-Tahrir claims to be have operations in more than 100
Hizb ut-Tahrir Bangladesh, the country chapter of the international
organisation of the same name which envisions a Shari'ah-based Khilafah
state, has been gaining most momentum through its activities at the
country's universities. Alongside its national launch in Bangladesh in 17
November, 2001, just weeks after the 9/11, with anti-American sentiment and
Islamic fervour peaking, the party started off university chapters at
several public and private universities, including Dhaka University and
North South University. Though religion-based student politics is nothing
new at the nation's higher educational institutions, Hizb ut-Tahrir has
their eyes on a strata of students isolated from the mainstream.
Non-practicing students, marginalised from mainstream politics, and open to
discussions on lifestyle, society and science sprinkled with faith were the
party's first and prime target audience. But why this specific
The dynamics of student politics, and the role religion has played in it,
has changed gradually over the years. Student political organisations based
on religious ideologies, just like their mainstream counterparts, have
almost always had their origins and visions pegged to their mother ships,
political parties. Religion-based student politics in our higher educational
institutions has its roots from the Pakistan period. Though, in their
organisational strength and ideological rigidity they had little resemblance
to their present day setup. In the early sixties, three religion-based
student organisations operated actively: Pakistan Chhatra Shakti, National
Student Federation (later referred to infamously by its abbreviated form:
NSF) and Islami Chhatra Sangha.
While Pakistan Chhatra Shakti was relatively obscure, the NSF and the Sangha
had political muscle behind them. Established in 1956, as the student wing
of the Khelafat-e-Rabbani party and later endorsed by then politically
powerful Muslim League, the NSF had always been plagued by internal strife
but remained a powerful and 'bullying' student organisation with direct
backing from the East Pakistan governor Monem Khan. Though referred to as
the 'musclemen on campus' and also responsible for first bringing violence
into the student politics of Dhaka University, the NSF never had a strong
footing among general students. And even more significant was their lack of
political vision. Worth mentioning is that the cultural front of
Khelafat-e-Rabbani, Tamaddun Majlish, played a pivotal role in the early
days of the language movement.
But the Islami Chhatra Sangha, the Bengali name of Islami Jamiat-e-Talaba,
was a different story. Though, not a front running student organisation at
the time, they set the pace for the Islami Chhatra Shibir of today. Syed
Abul Ala Maududi had established the Jamaat-e-Islami, an Islamic political
party based on his own ideologies, in 1941. Right after the partition of
India and Pakistan, the student wing of the party - the Islami
Jamaat-e-Talaba ('Talaba' meaning students) - was formed in Lahore on 23
December, 1947. But until 1954 there was virtually no student representation
in the organisation from East Pakistan. It was only in 1955 that a
full-fledged East Pakistan wing, the Islami Chhatra Sangha, was formed.
Another organisation that played a crucial role in galvanising the Islamic
student movement was the Jamiat-e-Talabae-Arabia, though it did not fall
under the general fold of student politics. This organisation's member base
was the madrassah-based students in the country. Till the mid-1960s they
complemented the powers of the Chhatra Sangha.
The first major clash, in terms of viewpoint and action, between Islamic
student bodies and the mainstream surfaced in the 1969 student movement,
when countering the 11-point general demand, the Islami Chhatra Sangha put
forward their own 8-point charter, which favoured the confederation. This
resulted in the first visible alternative Islamic student force emerging
alongside the majority student factions. There were even some violent
clashes between the two opposing camps that left a prominent Chhatra Sangha
The beginnings of the Chhatra Sangha in East Pakistan might have been modest
but by the late sixties they had gathered considerable clout within the
organisation's All-Pakistan (Nikhil Pakistan) body which culminated in the
election of Matiur Rahman Nizami (presently a minister in the four-party
alliance government and also the head of Jamaat-e-Islami Bangladesh) as the
president of the national committee. This was the first time that an East
Pakistani was at the helm of the Jamaat-e-Islami's student wing for all of
Islamic student organisations, taking queue from their parent parties,
always treaded the line of an Islamic state in direct contradiction to the
ideologies of both the mainstream right and left student bodies which
centred their actions around the four basic governing political principles
of the progressive politics at the time: Bengali nationalism, self-rule,
socialism and the most objectionable to the Islamic camp: secularism.
Stepping stones to the mainstream
While the actions of today's mainstream student political organisations -
some originating from the pre-liberation period and some formed later - have
shifted from their original political philosophies (few of them consider
their political charters as guiding principles) the contradiction between
progressive and religious conservative student politics, set off in the
Pakistan period, has carried on to the present day. With the strength and
spread of Islamic political parties growing with every passing year, and as
two Islamic political entities (Jamaat-e-Islami Bangladesh and Islami Oikya
Jote) are sharing state power, the underlying conflict between the two
fundamentally polar camps is reaching dizzying heights.
Though big Islamic student organisations, such as the Islami Chhatra Shibir,
have made inroads into the student bodies of most public universities, their
conservative views, actions, and also the unfavourable image among general
students towards its parent party, the Jamaat-e-Islami, has prevented them
from capturing a larger support base. Other Islamic parties which target
universities, such as the, Islamic Shashantontra Chhatra Andolan, Islami
Chhatra Majlis, Khelafat Chhatra Andolon do not have any specific support
base. But most activities of these organisations in turn have assisted the
growth of the greater movement to legitimise Islam-based politics within the
mainstream, or as is the case with such organisations, engage students with
While Shibir might not have been able to tap into general students, a
stagnant 'depoliticised' psyche of general students has resulted in their
(students) disassociation from any of the other major student bodies of
either the right or the left. After the anti-Ershad movement brought
together students throughout the eighties, the nineties saw a gradual
fallout phase which has resulted in a great vacuum. As the 'incorruptible
purists' of left student bodies in the 1960s and 1970s are a distant memory,
a great intellectual lapse has engulfed the universities, and waits to be
filled by a convenient force. This is where the Hizb ut-Tahrir comes in.
Islam, intellectually speaking
Though, the political ideology they represent is radical in terms of its
values and implementation, the approach they have taken is least to say
modern, and even appealing to the moderate Muslim, university crowd.
Engaging in dialogue with both general students and opposite camps on
previously taboo issues among Islamists through numerous seminars,
discussion sessions and study circles, they are tactfully using the same
political tools that previously worked so well for leftist student bodies
during their heydays. The topics covered include 'Existence of God', 'Blind
faith of Atheism' and 'Cloning'.
Hizb ut-Tahrir's aim, as summarised in their publication, is 'to resume the
Islamic way of life and to convey the Islamic da'wah (invitation) to the
world. This objective means bringing Muslims back to living an Islamic way
of life in Dar al-Islam and in an Islamic society such that all of life's
affairs in society are administered according to the Shari'ah rules, and the
viewpoint in it is the halal and the haram under the shade of the Islamic
State, i.e. Khilafah State. That state is the one in which Muslims appoint a
Khalifah and give him the bay'ah to listen and obey on condition that he
rules according to the Book of Allah (swt) and the Sunnah of the Messenger
of Allah (saw) and on condition that he conveys Islam as a message to the
world through da'wah and jihad.'
It also states: 'The Party, as well, aims at the correct revival of the
Ummah through enlightened thought. It also strives to bring her back to her
previous might and glory such that she wrests the reins of initiative away
from other states and nations, and returns to her rightful place as the
first state in the world, as she was in the past, when she governs the world
according to the laws of Islam.'
The party believes in establishing 'the Islamic State' through three stages.
The first stage involves 'culturing to produce people who believe in the
idea and the method of the party, so that they form the party group.' As
part of this stage, members of Hizb ut-Tahrir are mingling with the general
public and creating Sahabahs, associated to the Islamic thought of
'companions'. The second stage involves in 'interaction with the Ummah (the
masses), to let them embrace and carry Islam, so that they take it up as its
issue, and thus works (sic) to establish it in the affairs of life.' The
third, and final, stage is: 'establishing government, implementing Islam
generally and comprehensively, and carrying it as a message to the world'.
It is the final stage that is contentious. Though Hizb ut-Tahrir is a
political party, they do not accept any conventional political process.
Parliamentary democracy is not acceptable in their system. Though, election
as a process is acceptable, elected lawmakers formulating laws to govern a
country is not acceptable in the Hizb ut-Tahrir's final stage: 'establishing
government'. Now the obvious question arises: how then do we establish
'We do not believe in violence. We have condemned all terrorist activity in
the country and abroad. We are presently spreading the vision of Hizb
ut-Tahrir among the public. We are also engaging in dialogue with society's
opinion-making figures as they can influence a greater number of people,'
explains Mohiuddin. On the issue of taking power, he replies: 'That is the
third stage. We believe that by the time we have substantial members and a
critical mass of sympathisers who agree to our cause, there will be pressure
on the state machinery to follow suit. In such a scenario, the culmination
of populist support and key opinion-makers on our side, we shall be take
power and form a Khilafah state.'
What about jihad, which is mentioned within the party's aim?
Mustafa Minhaz, Media and Promotions Secretary of Hizb ut-Tahrir's central
committee, and a lecturer at the University of Asia Pacific, cautiously
responds to this question: 'That is a stage when an Islamic state has been
formed. A jihad, or war, between armies is not against Islam's principle. It
is not a scenario that will arise later.'
'Religious zeal speaking', the uninitiated might say. But while Bangladesh
has just seen close to four years of Hizb ut-Tahrir, countries with longer
exposure to the party have started seeing growing signs of active
resistance. Though their name came up as a possible suspect in bombings in
Uzbekistan last July, analysts have termed it unlikely. Three British
members of their party are being prosecuted in Egypt 'for plotting to
overthrow the government'. Despite such sporadic incidents, or rather
allegations, the party has maintained an ostensibly non-violent positioning.
An interesting facet of their ideology is that, in principle, they subscribe
to the same school of thought as the Taliban, or even Al Qaeda for that
matter, since neither believed in engaging with a democratic structure.
Their basic distinction is in their approach. 'The perceived but not
necessarily implied difference between the Hizb-ut-Tahrir and them (Taliban
and Al Qaeda) is the fact that while the former insists that the end does
not justify the means and that the Islamic Caliphate can be ushered in by
non violent political activism, the latter has carried out a series of
violent terrorist acts, which it claims are justified for the ultimate
cause,' points out Swati Parashar, associate fellow with the International
Terrorism Watch Programme, in a research paper for the South Asia Analysis
Hizb ut-Tahrir's activities, as with any rising political organisation, need
a constant supply of committed, intelligent and resourceful members. Young
men, and women, fit exactly that profile. What better place to recruit such
youth than universities?
Mohiuddin admits the result though not the intent. 'Yes, we have a greater
following among students. But that is not intentional. University students
are embracing our vision as it is a viable solution compared to the
misdirected philosophies of other political camps,' he clarifies.
But a clearer indication to such intentions came from Minhaz. 'We have
studied, and scrutinised, major political movements of history. For example,
in our own country, if you look at the phenomenal rise of the left student
movement during the sixties and seventies, the key element in their success
is their ability to galvanise a large support base within university
students. And in doing this they first engaged the intellectually aspiring
students and in turn these students had been able to attract a larger mass.
We have also taken a similar path though we believe our philosophy has a
larger appeal as it is based on faith,' explains Minhaz.
This process has been going on simultaneously at both public and private
universities. But the two streams of institutions have yielded different
results. While their efforts in public universities have been mostly limited
to Dhaka University, private universities have shown a remarkable acceptance
to their efforts.
At Dhaka University, initial successes were thwarted when in late 2003
activists of Bangladesh Chhatra League, the student wing of the main
opposition party Awami League, chased away several Hizb ut-Tahrir members.
Despite the incident, they have splintered support in the Commerce Faculty
of the university. Several general students have mentioned being approached
by Hizb ut-Tahrir, and some of them have also admitted to attending their
Seminars targeting Dhaka University students are organised close to the
campus. For example, one of the largest seminars, accompanied with a debate
between leftists and Hizb ut-Tahrir members, was held at the Public Library
auditorium at Shahbag. With prominent figures like Farhad Mazhar attending,
the seminar saw a large attendance.
'When programs are organised close to Dhaka University we get more audience.
Along with our own members we do get interested observers who want to know
what we have to say. It is at these seminars that we invite those interested
from the audience to attend our group sessions,' points out Muhammad Al Amin,
an MA student of Department of Finance, Dhaka University and Hizb
ut-Tahrir's Student Representative at the university.
But whatever shortfalls they have had in recruiting from public universities
were amply replenished by the phenomenal rise in their growth at private
Private universities have become the new front in the war to win hearts and
minds to the Khilafa state. Since the enactment of the Private University
Act 1992, Bangladesh - or, Dhaka to be precise - has seen a sharp increase
in the number of private universities. The present count, according to the
accrediting authority for private universities - the University Grants
Commission - is 54. While the Act has no mention of prohibiting student
unions, or student political bodies, most of the big private universities
have taken a safe-approach by enforcing a strict embargo on any form of
student organisation which may have an affiliation with politics. And as new
universities came up, they maintained the status-quo. There was reason to.
The growing acceptability of private university among students, and the
parents who pay for their education, was largely due to the non-political
atmosphere they assured. After a frightful decade of violence and
session-jams at public universities during the eighties, it was a welcome
option to many.
Though the initial enrollment into private universities had been mostly
restricted to students from fairly well-off families, by the mid-nineties
students from middle-class families with a public-schooling education
started getting into private universities too. While universities worldwide
are considered as the melting pot of ideologies and also a primary
'culturing platform' of opinion, the forced vacuum at private universities
left many students craving a political identity. By the late nineties, most
universities had elaborate student activity clubs to compensate for this
vacuum. But even then none of them provided the intellectual succour to
sustain student interest.
Enter Hizb ut-Tahrir
In fact, along with the one at Dhaka University, one of the first 'circles'
formed was at one of the leading private universities: North South
University. Though this 'circle' had no physical infrastructure to show for,
they aggressively started preaching their cause through some initial
contacts. To put it mildly, they had a field day, everyday. Encouraged by
the initial success, Hizb ut-Tahrir started putting in more concerted effort
into private universities. At present, they have groups at Independent
University Bangladesh, East West University, American International
University Bangladesh, City University and Southeast University.
'It is true that we have tapped into the ideological, or rather
intellectual, vacuum at private universities as few students get to discuss
any serious issues at university,' admits Imtiaz Selim, who heads Hizb
ut-Tahrir's activities at private universities and in-charge of the party's
activities in the Gulshan Circle. A business-graduate of North South
University and presently working for a telecommunications company, Imtiaz is
an amicable, mild-spoken young man. Originally from Chittagong, insiders say
he is also the second-in-command of the party's growing activities in
Well versed in major political philosophies, and abreast with global events,
Imtiaz is not your average private university graduate. With good social
networking among students of various private and public universities, he can
pull his weight in a conversation on just about anything. And this power to
socialise with students from all social and economic backgrounds has enabled
him, and members of his party, to infiltrate the diverse student
demographics at private universities.
'Politics, philosophy, economy, culture, lifestyle are issues that any young
man, or woman, would like to discuss. While activity clubs rarely address
this need, whatever activity there is, they are all related to career, or
studies,' says Imtiaz, and adds, 'so Hizb ut-Tahrir members at private
universities started discussing serious issues such as globalisation,
imperialism, economic systems.
'And we didn't shy away from talking about sensitive issues, which had
surfaced at private universities, or even those which contradicted our
principles. We talked about pre-marital sex, we talked about drugs, we
talked about alcohol, and we even talked about communism, as there was no
other place these students could discuss that. Many of these discussions
were not at all superficial in nature, rather intellectually engaging. And
after having an open discussion, we presented to them the ideologies that
Hizb ut-Tahrir believes in. We presented the Islamic way of life as a
solution to all of their problems,' elaborates Imtiaz.
From the very beginning, students started paying attention. At North South
University, dozens of members attended their group sessions after prayers at
the most convenient location, the prayer room. While not just staying
restricted to male members, they started recruiting female members. Within
months Hizb ut-Tahrir had become a topic of discussion. Though the number of
core members remained low, sympathisers grew rapidly.
A final semester student at North South University's School of Business,
referred to the approach taken by Hizb ut-Tahrir at private universities as
'nothing less than guerrilla marketing.' 'Their leaflets are minimal but
attractive in design and many of them are in English, which conveniently
caters to the psyche of private university students. Their members mingle
within the general student body. Be it in the canteen, in the student lobby,
in the study areas, and mostly in the tea-stalls adjacent the university,
they whip up conversations with any student on some topical issue, like the
Iraq war or hartal, and eventually bring up their discussion sessions,' says
'I attended one of their seminars as I found the topic interesting. It was
about cloning. But I started avoiding them when they asked me to attend
their sessions at the prayer room,' says another student.
A female student at Independent University Bangladesh's School of
Environmental Science and Management attended a women-only session of the
Sisters' Circle. 'They had discussed the Islamic way of life. It was quite
general talk. But one of my friends has joined in their party, and she has
started wearing a hijab since then,' says the girl.
Authorities at the universities observed the activities of Hizb ut-Tahrir
with caution. And breaking their self-imposed embargo on student's
engagement with political organizations, they stayed quiet. As prayer rooms,
canteens, rest areas, study rooms became the political playing field for
Hizb ut-Tahrir, they just overlooked it as general religious practice. Only
when their activities became elaborate did the authorities ask Hizb
ut-Tahrir to take their activities outside the campus perimeter. While group
sessions shifted to local mosques near the universities, and restaurants,
the political activism of Hizb ut-Tahrir members at private universities has
Though officially denied, insiders within the university administration and
several faculty members have indicated that as religion is a sensitive
issue, the universities think it better to ignore it. 'The private
universities already have a reputation for being 'too western' and we are
scared that cracking down Hizb ut-Tahrir will further strengthen this
allegation,' says a teacher at a prominent private university. In fact, with
the official stance of no-student-politics still in place, they have tried
hard to keep the situation under wraps. To stop leaking of such damaging
'business' information in the media, some of the major private universities
even keep several paid media consultants, which generally include university
and education correspondents of major dailies, who in turn have kept such
and other issues out of the media.
A highly-placed source in North South University said that the US Embassy
brought up the issue with the university last year as many of the
universities' graduates go on to attend graduate schools in the US.
Activities of members of the party have been under heightened scrutiny since
then though with a spread out member base within the general body, their
activities have merely taken a more clandestine nature.
Is there anybody out there?
An interesting loophole within the systems of private universities is that
student unions, or student political bodies, are not legally prohibited at
any private universities as none of the private universities have published
'statutes' which legally restrict students from forming student bodies.
While Hizb ut-Tahrir is actively entertaining its political aspirations, it
is interesting to observe that other political camps, either from the right
or the left, remain completely absent. Ideologically, the left student
bodies are the only ones that are directly in clash with Hizb ut-Tahrir. But
they seem surprisingly inactive. A little inquiry revealed a classic
reasoning; adding to a better understanding of the rise of faith-based
student politics. The Student's Union, the largest leftist student body
operating at public universities, do not consider private universities as
legitimate educational institutions, and therefore they don't operate in
For what its worth, the Islamic student movement in Bangladesh has a new
face. Their gathering clout among private university students is likely to
have far reaching consequences. As a faith-based organisation, students have
been found to be connected to the party even after graduation, and as they
will rise through the ranks in Bangladesh, the party's financial and
organisational capacity will increase likewise as all members contribute
both compulsorily and also voluntarily. And along with it, as Hizb
ut-Tahrir's influence within the general public increases, the day may
actually come when they just might say: step aside!