This is a guest post by Abu Wannabe Arab
Things have not been going well for Hizb ut-Tahrir (HT) recently. Key leading members have left, their annual conferences have had very poor turnoutsand their sham sex education campaign was exposed. Even their attempt to branch out into the education sector was exposed by the Conservatives and Newsnight and, to top it all off, they held a poorly attended press conference in which fumbling Fombo (aka Hizb ut-Tahrir’s answer to Alastair Campbell, Taji Mustafa) made a complete tit of himself. But it seems things abroad are going even worse. They have been banned in Bangladesh, members have been arrested in Pakistan and they are virtually defunct in the Arab world.
To add insult to injury, their previous stronghold of Central Asia doesn’t seem to be going according to plan either. Eurasianet.org reports:
Information on the inner workings of Hizb-ut-Tahrir is sketchy, but there is evidence that public support for the group is seriously eroding. In May 2008, the Kyrgyz State Agency for Religious Affairs put the number of Hizb-ut-Tahrir members at around 15,000. A year later, after the Nookat convictions, the Kyrgyz Ministry of Interior claimed that membership was decreasing and said there were only 118 members in the country.
Economic hardship appears to be playing a role: unable to generate income in Kyrgyzstan, Hizb members, like many other men in the country, have left in search of work. A large percentage of these labor migrants have headed to Russia and Kazakhstan.
The hardening of the government’s tactics, however, has put the most pressure on Hizb members. “What can you do in this [repressive] environment? After Nookat there are no controls on police and prosecutors,” complained a Hizb member from Kara-Suu, a town in southern Osh Province, who spoke to EurasiaNet on condition of anonymity.
“They can arrest and torture anyone; they can put anyone they suspect in jail,” the Hizb member continued. “[President Kurmanbek] Bakiyev gave them [unlimited] powers.”
Another Kara-Suu-based Hizb activist claimed that the government was indiscriminately targeting devout Muslims for persecution, including many who are not radically inclined. “They [government officials] claim they are Muslims, but their policies punish Muslims,” the activist said.
Whilst we should all condemn the harsh suppressive tactics of central Asian authoritarian regimes, it is hypocritical of HT to moan about ‘authoritarianism’ when they themselves believe in abolishing democracy and human rights and instead establishing a theocratic dictatorship whose foreign policy would be aggressive Jihadist expansion.
Yet another factor in Hizb-ut-Tahrir’s decline is ideological/theological competition. In recent years the Kyrgyz section of the Ferghana Valley has witnessed the growth of other religious convictions, a trend that appears to have weakened Hizb’s appeal. According to some local analysts, mainstream Muslim leaders who have emerged in many Kyrgyz towns who have been more successful than Hizb activists in putting spiritual issues on the political agenda. This, according to observers, has significantly reduced Hizb’s allure as an outlet for the discussion of spiritual issues.
“Hizb was a fad for many [Kyrgyz] Muslims when they were rediscovering and reestablishing ties with the Muslim world [after independence]. The same trend happened in other Muslim-populated countries. But things change and fads pass,” said Ulugbek Sokin, an Osh-based analyst.
HT’s Kyrgz branch seems to be following HT’s standard trajectory all around the world. A huge burst of energy and activity is following by the intelligent members leaving, the hardcore members becoming Jihadists and nearly everybody else simply losing interest and getting on with their lives. HT’s ideology had something to offer Kyrgz Muslims after independence, just as it had something to offer the generation of British Muslims growing up in the early to mid-1990s, but now its bankruptcy has become apparent. HT have nothing left to offer – the British and Kyrgz publics know it and, increasingly, HT’s rank and file know it too.
World domination was never going to be easy, but HT really make it look hard.