The Magazine

The Bad Guys You Don't Know

Meet Hizb ut-Tahrir.

Oct 1, 2007, Vol. 13, No. 03 • By OLIVIER GUITTA
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How worried should the West be about the expansion of this not directly violent group, yet whose alumni include al Qaeda's notorious Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and Abu Musab al Zarqawi? Very worried, argues Maajid Nawaz, a former leader and recruiter for HT in Britain, the organization's headquarters. As Nawaz explained this month to the New York Times, "Hizb ut-Tahrir spearheaded the radicalization of the 1990s and cultivated an atmosphere of anger. . . . Buried in the literature is an ideology that inevitably leads to violence." Hudson Institute scholar Zeyno Baran put it best: "While HT as an organization does not engage in terrorist activities, it has become the vanguard of the radical Islamist ideology that encourages its followers to commit terrorist acts. . . . HT today serves as a de facto conveyor belt for terrorists."

In 2003, Germany joined most Middle Eastern countries in banning HT. But Germany, unlike the United States, outlaws hate speech and has no First Amendment. In the United States, as in Britain, HT has so far not met the criteria for banning as a terrorist group. Clearly, though, as it grows in numbers and in its presence on the web, it is pressing hard against the boundaries of what a free society can tolerate.

Olivier Guitta is a foreign affairs and counterterrorism consultant in Washington, D.C., and the founder of the newsletter The Croissant.