Islam and the West

The main part of this document is
section 9.2 of Samuel Huntington’s The Clash of Civilizations
(some related articles follow).
Published in 1996, it lacks examples from the last decade;
on the other hand, it is interesting to see how successfully
Huntington anticipated future developments.

Paragraph numbers, internal headings, links, emphasis, and some comments
have been added.

Section 9.2
Islam and the West


Some Westerners, including President Bill Clinton, have argued that
the West does not have problems with Islam
but only with violent Islamist extremists.

Fourteen hundred years of history demonstrate otherwise.
The relations between Islam and Christianity, both Orthodox and Western,
have often been stormy.
Each has been the other’s Other.
The twentieth-century conflict
between liberal democracy and Marxism-Leninism
is only a fleeting and superficial historical phenomenon
compared to the continuing and deeply conflictual relation
between Islam and Christianity.
At times, peaceful coexistence has prevailed;
more often the relation has been one of intense rivalry
and of varying degrees of hot war.
Their “historical dynamics,” John Esposito comments,
“...often found the two communities in competition,
and locked at times in deadly combat, for power, land, and souls.”
Across the centuries the fortunes of the two religions have risen and fallen
in a sequence of momentous surges, pauses, and counter surges.


The initial Arab-Islamic sweep outward
from the early seventh to the mid-eighth century
established Muslim rule in
North Africa, Iberia, the Middle East, Persia, and northern India.
For two centuries or so
the line of division between Islam and Christianity stabilized.
Then in the late eleventh century, Christians
reasserted control of the western Mediterranean,
conquered Sicily, and
captured Toledo.
In 1095 Christendom launched the Crusades
and for a century and a half Christian potentates attempted,
with decreasing success,
to establish Christian rule
in the Holy Land and adjoining areas in the Near East,
losing Acre, their last foothold there, in 1291.
Meanwhile the Ottoman Turks had appeared on the scene.
They first weakened Byzantium and then
conquered much of the Balkans as well as North Africa,
captured Constantinople in 1453, and
besieged Vienna in 1529.
“For almost a thousand years,” Bernard Lewis observes,
“from the first Moorish landing in Spain to the second Turkish siege of Vienna,
Europe was under constant threat from Islam.”
Islam is the only civilization which has put the survival of the West in doubt,
and it has done that at least twice.

By the fifteenth century, however, the tide had begun to turn.
The Christians gradually recovered Iberia,
completing the task at Granada in 1492.
Meanwhile European innovations in ocean navigation
enabled the Portuguese and then others
to circumvent the Muslim heartland
and penetrate into the Indian Ocean and beyond.
Simultaneously the Russians brought to an end two centuries of Tatar rule.
The Ottomans subsequently made one last push forward,
besieging Vienna again in 1683.
Their failure there marked the beginning of a long retreat, involving
the struggle of Orthodox peoples in the Balkans
to free themselves from Ottoman rule,
the expansion of the Hapsburg Empire, and
the dramatic advance of the Russians to the Black Sea and the Caucasus.
In the course of a century or so “the scourge of Christendom”
was transformed into “the sick man of Europe.”
At the conclusion of World War I, Britain, France, and Italy
administered the coup de grace (more)
and established their direct or indirect rule
throughout the remaining Ottoman lands
except for the territory of the Turkish Republic.
By 1920 only four Muslim countries—
Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Iran, and Afghanistan
remained independent of some form of non-Muslim rule.

The retreat of Western colonialism, in turn,
began slowly in the 1920s and 1930s
and accelerated dramatically in the aftermath of World War II.
The collapse of the Soviet Union
brought independence to additional Muslim societies.
According to one count,
some ninety-two acquisitions of Muslim territory by non-Muslim governments
occurred between 1757 and 1919.
By 1995,
sixty-nine of these territories were once again under Muslim rule, and about
forty-five independent states had overwhelmingly Muslim populations.
The violent nature of these shifting relationships is reflected in the fact that
50 percent of wars
involving pairs of states of different religions between 1820 and 1929
were wars between Muslims and Christians.

Causes of conflict

The causes of this ongoing pattern of conflict lie not in transitory phenomena
such as twelfth-century Christian passion
or twentieth-century Muslim fundamentalism.
They flow from the nature of the two religions
and the civilizations based on them.
Conflict was, on the one hand, a product of difference, particularly
  • the Muslim concept of Islam
    as a way of life
    transcending and uniting religion and politics,

  • the Western Christian concept of the separate realms of God and Caesar.
The conflict also stemmed, however, from their similarities.
Both are monotheistic religions,
which, unlike polytheistic ones, cannot easily assimilate additional deities, and
which see the world in dualistic, us-and-them terms.
Both are universalistic,
claiming to be the one true faith to which all humans can adhere.
Both are missionary religions
believing that their adherents have an obligation
to convert nonbelievers to that one true faith.
From its origins Islam expanded by conquest,
and when the opportunity existed Christianity did also.
The parallel concepts of “jihad” and “crusade” not only resemble each other
but distinguish these two faiths from other major world religions.
Islam and Christianity, along with Judaism,
also have teleological views of history
in contrast to the cyclical or static view prevalent in other civilizations.

The level of violent conflict between Islam and Christianity over time
has been influenced by
  • demographic growth and decline,

  • economic developments,

  • technological change, and

  • intensity of religious commitment.
The spread of Islam in the seventh century
was accompanied by massive migrations of Arab peoples,
“the scale and speed” of which were unprecedented,
into the lands of the Byzantine and Sassanian empires.
A few centuries later, the Crusades were in large part a product of
  • economic growth,

  • population expansion, and

  • the “Clunaic revival” in eleventh-century Europe,
    which made it possible to mobilize large numbers of knights and peasants
    for the march to the Holy Land.
When the First Crusade reached Constantinople,
one Byzantine observer wrote, it seemed like
“the entire West,
including all the tribes of the barbarians
living beyond the Adriatic Sea to the Pillars of Hercules,
had stated a mass migration and was on the march,
bursting forth into Asia in a solid mass,
with all its belongings.”
In the nineteenth century spectacular population growth
again produced a European eruption,
generating the largest migration in history,
which flowed into Muslim as well as other lands.

A comparable mix of factors has increased the conflict
between Islam and the West in the late twentieth century:
  • Muslim population growth
    has generated large numbers of unemployed and disaffected young people who
    • become recruits to Islamist causes,

    • exert pressure on neighboring societies, and

    • migrate to the West.
  • The Islamic Resurgence
    [defined and discussed in Section 5.2]
    has given Muslims renewed confidence
    in the distinctive character and worth of their civilization and values
    compared to those of the West.

  • The West’s efforts to
    • universalize its values and institutions,

    • maintain its military and economic superiority, and

    • intervene in conflicts in the Muslim world
    generate intense resentment among Muslims.
    [No kidding!]

  • The collapse of communism
    removed a common enemy of the West and Islam
    and left each the perceived major threat to the other.

  • The increasing
    contact between and intermingling of Muslims and Westerners

    stimulate in each a new sense of their own identity
    and how it differs from that of the other.
    Interaction and intermingling also exacerbate differences
    over the rights of the members of one civilization
    in a country dominated by members of the other civilization.
    [Huntington, writing in 1995, certainly raises here a point
    which would later bedevil the Danes, Dutch, and French, among others.]

    Within both Muslim and Christian societies,
    tolerance for the other declined sharply in the 1980s and 1990s.

The causes of the renewed conflict between Islam and the West
thus lie in fundamental questions of power and culture.
Kto? Kovo?
Who is to rule? Who is to be ruled?
The central issue of politics defined by Lenin
is the root of the conflict between Islam and the West.
There is, however, the additional conflict,
which Lenin would have considered meaningless,
between two different versions of what is right and what is wrong
and, as a consequence, who is right and who is wrong.
So long as
Islam remains Islam (which it will) and
the West remains the West (which is more dubious),
this fundamental conflict between two great civilizations and ways of life
will continue to define their relations in the future
even as it has defined them for the past fourteen centuries.

These relations are further roiled by a number of substantive issues
on which their positions differ or conflict.
Historically one major issue was the control of territory,
but that is now relatively insignificant.
Nineteen of twenty-eight
fault line conflicts in the mid-1990s between Muslims and non-Muslims
were between Muslims and Christians.
Eleven were with Orthodox Christians and
seven with adherents of Western Christianity in Africa and Southeast Asia.
Only one of these violent or potentially violent conflicts,
that between Croats and Bosnians,
occurred directly along the fault line between the West and Islam.
The effective end of Western territorial imperialism
and the absence so far of renewed Muslim territorial expansion
[other than through mass emigration into the heart of the Western World]
have produced a geographical segregation
so that only in a few places in the Balkans
do Western and Muslim communities directly border on each other.
Conflicts between the West and Islam
thus focus less on territory than on
broader intercivilizational issues such as
  • weapons proliferation,

  • human rights and democracy,

  • control of oil,

  • migration,

  • Islamic terrorism, and

  • Western intervention.

Recognition of conflict

In the wake of the Cold War,
the increasing intensity of this historical antagonism
has been widely recognized by members of both communities.
In 1991, for instance,
Barry Buzan saw many reasons why a societal cold war was emerging
“between the West and Islam, in which Europe would be on the front line.
This development is partly to do with
  • secular versus religious values,

  • the historical rivalry between Christendom and Islam,

  • jealousy of Western power,

  • resentments over Western domination
    of the postcolonial political structuring of the Middle East, and

  • the bitterness and humiliation of the invidious comparison
    between the accomplishments of Islamic and Western civilizations
    in the last two centuries.”

In addition, he noted a
“societal Cold War with Islam
would serve to strengthen the European identity all round
at a crucial time for the process of European union.”
“there may well be a substantial community in the West
prepared not only to support a societal Cold War with Islam,
but to adopt policies that encourage it.” [!?]
In 1990 Bernard Lewis, a leading Western scholar of Islam,
analyzed [in The Atlantic, 1990-09] “The Roots of Muslim Rage,” and concluded:
It should now be clear that we are facing a mood and a movement
far transcending the level of issues and policies
and the governments that pursue them.
This is no less than a clash of civilizations
that perhaps irrational but surely historic reaction
of an ancient rival against
our Judeo-Christian heritage,
our secular present, and
the worldwide expansion of both.
It is crucially important that we on our side
should not be provoked into an equally historic
but also equally irrational reaction
against that rival.

Similar observations came from the Islamic community.
“There are unmistakable signs,”
argued a leading Egyptian journalist, Mohammed Sid-Ahmed, in 1994,
“of a growing clash between the Judeo-Christian Western ethic
and the Islamic revival movement,
which is now stretching from the Atlantic in the west to China in the east.”

A prominent Indian Muslim [M. J. Akbar] predicted in 1992 that the West’s
“next confrontation is definitely going to come from the Muslim world.
It is in the sweep of the Islamic nations from the Maghreb to Pakistan
that the struggle for a new world order will begin.”

For a leading Tunisian lawyer [Abdelwahab Belwahl],
the struggle was already underway:
“Colonialism tried to deform all the cultural traditions of Islam.
I am not an Islamist.
I don’t think there is a conflict between religions.
There is a conflict between civilizations.”

In the 1980s and 1990s the overall trend in Islam
has been in an anti-Western direction.
In part, this is the natural consequence of the Islamic Resurgence
and the reaction against the perceived “gharbzadegi” or Westoxification
of Muslim societies.
The “reaffirmation of Islam, whatever its specific sectarian form,
means the repudiation of European and American influence
upon local society, politics, and morals.” [William H. McNeill]
On occasion in the past, Muslim leaders did tell their people:
“We must Westernize.”
If any Muslim leader has said that in the last quarter of the twentieth century,
however, he is a lonely figure.
Indeed, it is hard to find statements by any Muslims,
whether politicians, officials, academics, businesspersons, or journalists,
praising Western values and institutions.
They instead stress
the differences between their civilization and Western civilization,
the superiority of their culture, and
the need to maintain the integrity of that culture against Western onslaught.
Muslims fear and resent Western power
and the threat which this poses to their society and beliefs.
They see Western culture as materialistic, corrupt, decadent, and immoral.
They also see it as seductive,
and hence stress all the more the need to resist its impact on their way of life.
Muslims attack the West not for adhering to an imperfect, erroneous religion,
which is nonetheless a “religion of the book,”
but for not adhering to any religion at all.
In Muslim eyes Western secularism, irreligiosity, and hence immorality
are worse evils than the Western Christianity that produced them.
In the Cold War the West labeled its opponent “godless communism”;
in the post-Cold War conflict of civilizations
Muslims see their opponent as “the godless West.”

These images of the West as
arrogant, materialistic, repressive, brutal, and decadent
are held not only by fundamentalist imams
but also by those whom many in the West
would consider their natural allies and supporters.
Few books by Muslim authors published in the 1990s in the West
received the praise given to Fatima Mernissi’s Islam and Democracy,
generally hailed by Westerners as
the courageous statement of a modern, liberal, female Muslim.
The portrayal of the West in that volume, however,
could hardly be less flattering.
The West is “militaristic” and “imperialistic”
and has “traumatized” other nations through “colonial terror” (pp. 3, 9).
Individualism, the hallmark of Western culture,
is “the source of all trouble” (p. 8).
Western power is fearful.
The West
“alone decides if satellites will be used to educate Arabs
or to drop bombs on them....
It crushes our potentialities and invades our lives
with its imported products and televised movies that swamp the airwaves….
[It] is a power that crushes us, besieges our markets,
and controls our merest resources, initiatives, and potentialities.
That was how we perceived our situation,
and the Gulf War turned our perception into certitude”
(pp. 146–47).
The West “creates its power through military research”
and then sells the products of that research to underdeveloped countries
who are its “passive consumers.”
To liberate themselves from this subservience,
Islam must develop its own engineers and scientists,
build its own weapons (whether nuclear or conventional, she does not specify), and “free itself from military dependence on the West” (pp. 43–44).
These, to repeat, are not the views of a bearded, hooded ayatollah.

Whatever their political or religious opinions,
Muslims agree that
basic differences exist between their culture and Western culture.
“The bottom line,” as Sheik Ghanoushi put it,
“is that our societies are based on values other than those of the West.”
Americans “come here,” an Egyptian government official said,
“and want us to be like them.
They understand nothing of our values or our culture.”

“[W]e are different,” an Egyptian journalist agreed.
“We have a different background, a different history.
Accordingly we have the right to different futures.”

Both popular and intellectually serious Muslim publications
repeatedly describe what are alleged to be Western plots and designs
to subordinate, humiliate, [emasculate,] and undermine
Islamic institutions and culture.

The reaction against the West can be seen
not only in the central intellectual thrust of the Islamic Resurgence
but also in the shift in the attitudes toward the West
of governments in Muslim countries.
The immediate postcolonial governments were generally Western
in their political and economic ideologies and policies
and pro-Western in their foreign policies,
with partial exceptions, like Algeria and Indonesia,
where independence resulted from a nationalist revolution.
One by one, however, pro-Western governments gave way to
governments less identified with the West or explicitly anti-Western
in Iraq, Libya, Yemen, Syria, Iran, Sudan, Lebanon, and Afghanistan.
Less dramatic changes in the same direction
occurred in the orientation and alignment
of other states including Tunisia, Indonesia, and Malaysia.
The two staunchest Cold War Muslim military allies of the United States,
Turkey and Pakistan, are under Islamist political pressure internally
and their ties with the West subject to increased strain.

In 1995 the only Muslim state which was clearly more pro-Western
than it had been ten years previously was Kuwait.
The West’s close friends in the Muslim world are now
either like Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, and the Gulf sheikdoms
dependent on the West militarily
or like Egypt and Algeria dependent on it economically.
In the late 1980s the communist regimes of Eastern Europe collapsed
when it became apparent that the Soviet Union no longer could or would
provide them with economic and military support.
If it became apparent that the West would no longer maintain its Muslim satellite regimes, they are likely to suffer a comparable fate.

Western reactions

Growing Muslim anti-Westernism has been paralleled by
expanding Western concern with the “Islamic threat”
posed particularly by Muslim extremism.
Islam is seen as a source of
nuclear proliferation, terrorism, and, in Europe, unwanted migrants.
These concerns are shared by both publics and leaders.
[The remainder of this paragraph,
mainly not very surprising polling data supporting that assertion,
is omitted.]

With the virtual disappearance of a military threat from the east,
NATO’s planning is increasingly directed toward
potential threats from the south.
“The Southern Tier,” one U.S. Army analyst observed in 1992,
is replacing the Central Front
and “is rapidly becoming NATO’s new front line.”
To meet these southern threats,
NATO’s southern members—Italy, France, Spain, and Portugal—
began joint military planning and operations and at the same time
enlisted the Maghreb governments in consultations
on ways of countering Islamist extremists.
These perceived threats also provided a rationale
for continuing a substantial U.S. military presence in Europe.
“While U.S. forces in Europe are not a panacea
for the problems created by fundamentalist Islam,”
one former senior U.S. official observed,
“those forces do cast a powerful shadow
on military planning throughout the area.
Remember the successful deployment of U.S., French and British forces from Europe in the Gulf War of 1990–1991?
Those in the region do.”
And, he might have added, they remember it with fear, resentment, and hate.

A state of quasi war

the prevailing perceptions Muslims and Westerners have of each other
plus the rise of Islamist extremism,
it is hardly surprising that
following the 1979 Iranian Revolution,
an intercivilizational quasi war developed between Islam and the West.
It is a quasi war for three reasons:
  1. All of Islam has not been fighting all of the West.
    Two fundamentalist states (Iran, Sudan),
    three nonfundamentalist states (Iraq, Libya, Syria),
    plus a wide range of Islamist organizations,
    with financial support from other Muslim countries such as Saudi Arabia,
    have been fighting the United States and, at times,
    Britian, France, and other Western states and groups,
    as well as Israel and Jews generally.

  2. It is a quasi war because, apart from the Gulf War of 1990–1991,
    it has been fought with limited means:
    terrorism on one side and
    air power, covert action, and economic sanctions on the other.

  3. It is a quasi war because while the violence has been continuing,
    it has not been continuous.
    It has involved intermittent actions by one side
    which provoke responses by the other.
Yet a quasi war is still a war.
Even excluding the tens of thousand of Iraqi soldiers and civilians
killed by Western bombing in January-February 1991,
the deaths and other casualties number well into the thousands,
and they occurred in virtually every year after 1979.
Many more Westerners have been killed in this quasi war
than were killed in the “real” war in the Gulf [in 1991].

Both sides have, moreover, recognized this conflict to be a war.
Early on, Khomeini declared, quite accurately, that
“Iran is effectively at war with America,”
and Qadhafi regularly proclaims holy war against the West.
Muslim leaders of other extremist groups and states have spoken in similar terms.
On the Western side,
the United States has classified seven countries as “terrorist states,”
five of which are Muslim (Iran, Iraq, Syria, Libya, Sudan);
Cuba and North Korea are the others.
This, in effect, identifies them as enemies,
because they are attacking the United States and its friends
with the most effective weapon at their disposal,
and thus recognizes the existence of a state of war with them.
U.S. officials repeatedly refer to these states as
“outlaw,” “backlash,” and “rogue” states—
thereby placing them outside the civilized international order and
making them legitimate targets for multilateral or unilateral countermeasures.
The United States Government charged the [1993] World Trade Center bombers with intending
“to levy a war of urban terrorism against the United States,”
and argued that
conspirators charged with planning further bombings in Manhattan
were “soldiers” in a struggle “involving a war” against the United States.
If Muslims allege that the West wars on Islam and
if Westerners allege that Islamic groups war on the West,
it seems reasonable to conclude that
something very much like a war is underway.

In this quasi war,
each side has capitalized on its own strengths and the side’s weaknesses.
Militarily it has been largely a war of terrorism versus air power.
Dedicated Islamic militants exploit the open societies of the West
and plant car bombs at selected targets.
Western military professionals exploit the open skies of Islam
and drop smart bombs on selected targets.
The Islamic participants plot the assassination of prominent Westerners;
the United States plots the overthrow of extremist Islamic regimes.
During the fifteen years between 1980 and 1995,
according to the U.S. Defense Department,
the United States engaged in seventeen military operations in the Middle East,
all of them directed against Muslims.
No comparable pattern of U.S. military operations occurred
against the people of any other civilization.

To date, each side has, apart from the 1991 Gulf War,
kept the intensity of the violence at reasonably low levels
and refrained from labeling violent acts
as acts of war requiring an all-out response.
“If Libya ordered one of its submarines to sink an American liner,”
The Economist observed,
“the United States would treat it as an act of war by a government,
not seek the extradition of the submarine commander.
In principle,
the bombing of an airliner by Libya’s secret service is no different.”
Yet the participants in this war
employ much more violent tactics against each other
than the United States and Soviet Union directly employed against each other
in the Cold War.
With rare exceptions
neither superpower purposefully killed civilians or even military
belonging to the other.
This, however, repeatedly happens in the quasi war.

American leaders allege that
the Muslims involved in the quasi war are a small minority
whose use of violence is rejected by the great majority of moderate Muslims.
This may be true, but evidence to support it is lacking.
Protests against anti-Western violence
have been totally absent in Muslim countries.
Muslim governments,
even the bunker governments friendly to and dependent on the West,
have been strikingly reticent
when it comes to condemning terrorist acts against the West.
On the other side,
European governments and publics have largely supported and rarely criticized
actions the United States has taken against its Muslim opponents,
in striking contrast to
the strenuous opposition they often expressed to
American actions against the Soviet Union and communism during the Cold War.
In civilizational conflicts, unlike ideological ones, kin stand by kin.



The underlying problem for the West is not Islamic fundamentalism.
It is Islam,
a different civilization whose people
are convinced of the superiority of their culture and
are obsessed with the inferiority of their power.

The problem for Islam is not the CIA or the U.S. Department of Defense.
It is the West,
a different civilization whose people
are convinced of the universality of their culture and
believe that their superior, if declining, power
imposes on them the obligation
to extend that culture throughout the world.

These are the basic ingredients
that fuel conflict between Islam and the West.

D’Souza, Kakutani and Huntington

The Enemy At Home: The Cultural Left and Its Responsibility for 9/11
by Dinesh D’Souza, published in 2007,
contains some overstated and dubious arguments,
but at its core properly points out how
America’s attempt to impose its current culturally liberal values
on socially conservative parts of the world
quite naturally leads to hostility towards America, i.e., anti-Americanism.

This is an argument that America’s ruling cultural elite just can’t accept.

Consider, for example, the 2007-02-06 NYT review by Michiko Kakutani
Dispatch From Gomorrah, Savaging the Cultural Left”,
where she writes:
Mr. D’Souza’s central thesis is an absurd one,
constructed around two clashing arguments:
  1. the American left is allied to the Islamic radical movement
    to undermine the Bush White House and American foreign policy;

  2. “the left is the primary reason for Islamic anti-Americanism
    as well as
    the anti-Americanism
    of other traditional cultures around the world”
    “liberals defend and promote values that are
    controversial in America and
    deeply revolting to people in traditional societies,
    especially in the Muslim world.”

Whatever the merits may be of the first D’Souza argument she cites,
there is nothing “absurd” about the second one.
It is thoroughly supported by scholarship, for example
paragraph 9.2.12 (and ff.)
of Samuel Huntington’s The Clash of Civilizations.

Continuing in Kakutani’s review, she writes:
In the course of this book,
Mr. D’Souza rages against
the separation of church and state in American public life,
and denounces what he calls “Secular Warriors” who are
“trying to eradicate every public trace
of the religious and moral values
that most of the world lives by.”

[Emphasis is added.]

But Huntington in 9.2.12 writes:
[Muslims] see Western culture as
materialistic, corrupt, decadent, and immoral.
In Muslim eyes Western secularism, irreligiosity, and hence immorality
are worse evils than the Western Christianity that produced them.
In the Cold War the West labeled its opponent “godless communism”;
in the post-Cold War conflict of civilizations
Muslims see their opponent as “the godless West.”

Does that not precisely buttress the point D’Souza was making,
that the values of the liberal elite are in fact
despised by much of the world?
And a corollary follows:
It is immoral and obscene
to use the immense destructive power of the U.S. military
to impose these unwanted Western, liberal values
on people who, by and large,
do not want them

Miscellaneous Articles

In Books, a Clash of Europe and Islam
New York Times, 2007-02-08

[There is] a larger debate over a string of recently published books
that ominously warn of
a catastrophic culture clash between
Europeans with traditional Western values and
fundamentalist Muslims

books including
Londonistan by Melanie Phillips,
The Truth About Muhammad: Founder of the World’s Most Intolerant Religion
by Robert Spencer, and
America Alone by Mark Steyn.

London Gathering Defends Vision of Radical Islam
New York Times, 2007-08-06

LONDON, Aug. 4 —
An international radical Islamic party
that has been the focus of increasing concern in Britain
launched a frontal attack on its critics at
a carefully stage-managed conference in London this weekend
that attracted several thousand relatively well-heeled Muslims.

“They say, ‘You preach hate,’ ”
said the party’s chairman, Abdul Wahid, a doctor in Harrow, England,
to an appreciative audience segregated into his and hers sections.
“I preach a hatred of
the lies of people in this country that send soldiers to Iraq.
I preach a hatred of torture.”

The party, Hizb ut-Tahrir,
calls for
the return of the caliphate in Muslim countries,
the end of Israel and
the withdrawal of all Western interests in the Middle East.
In the aftermath of the botched terrorist attacks in London and Glasgow,
there were renewed calls in Parliament for barring the group,
on the ground that though it officially advocates change by peaceful means,
its pronouncements can encourage Muslims to turn toward terrorism.

The conference was dedicated to the return of the Khilafah, or caliphate,
the organization of Muslim power
that held sway for centuries after the death of the Prophet Muhammad.

Titled Khilafah: The Need and the Method,
it was held at the Alexandra Palace,
a 19th-century entertainment complex in grand gardens in northern London,
and drew a largely professional audience — IT managers, bankers, teachers.
For hours, speakers assailed the British government
for linking the group to terrorism, and
for too often treating Muslims as terrorism suspects,
and drummed at the theme of the need for Muslim rule.

“There is no Islam as a way of life without a Khilafah,”
said Kamal Abuzahra, an Islamic academic of Bangladeshi origin,
earning a roar of approval and calls of “Allahu Akbar.”

Hizb ut-Tahrir, founded in the early 1950s
by a Palestinian judge dissatisfied with the Muslim Brotherhood,
has existed in Britain for a number of years
and remains legal in other Western countries, including the United States.
But it is banned in a number of Muslim countries,
particularly those — including Egypt, Pakistan and Saudi Arabia —
that feel vulnerable to its calls for the overthrow of their governments.

The group was banned by the German Interior Ministry in 2003
for “spreading hate and violence,”
under a chapter in Germany’s Constitution
that is often used to clamp down on anti-Semitism.
Hizb ut-Tahrir is appealing the ban.

In Britain, the group’s popularity has waxed and waned,
enjoying considerable strength in the mid-1990s
when members recall it attracted a crowd of many thousands
to a meeting at Wembley Stadium.

A strictly run cell-based organization,
the party does not announce membership numbers.
It remains potent on British university campuses,
frequently fields speakers on television talk shows and
runs a Web site that falls short of running into problems with British law.

Some analysts describe the group as “soft jihadists.”
Others contend that it veers beyond that.
“The only difference between Islamists from Hizb ut-Tahrir and jihadists
is that
the former are waiting for their state and caliph before they commence jihad,
the latter believes the time for jihad is now,”

said Ed Husain, a former member of Hizb ut-Tahrir
who has written against the group in a recent book, “The Islamist.”

Tony Blair, when he was still prime minister last year,
was urged by the Pakistani president, Gen. Pervez Musharraf,
to ban the group on the grounds that
it “brainwashes people, and that leads to violent acts,”
a senior Pakistani official said.
Pakistani officials sent a similar message to the British Foreign Office last month.

During Prime Minister Gordon Brown’s first question time last month,
the leader of the Conservative Party, David Cameron,
asked Mr. Brown, the new Labor leader,
why Hizb ut-Tahrir had not been banned.

Mr. Cameron said the group
was “poisoning the minds of young people and
has said that Jews should be killed wherever they are found.”

Mr. Brown replied that he had been in office only a short while
and would look into it.
But John Reid, a former home secretary, jumped in, saying
there was not sufficient evidence under British law to ban the group.

During a lunch break in the sunny courtyard of the palace,
people at the conference told of the appeal of the ideology of a caliphate.

“If you look at the political structure in the Muslim world,
it’s a police state,”

said Mohammed Baig, 28, a second-generation British Indian who is an asset manager specializing in corporate governance and has been a Tahrir party member for seven years.
“You have the public opinion underground,
and then staged public opinion in the media.”

Most people in the Muslim world want Shariah,
the code of Islamic law based on the Koran,
he said.

“Our feeling is:
what gives Western governments the right to impose a set of values
on a people who don’t believe in them?”

he said,
referring to the United States and Britain
pushing for democratic values in the Middle East.

[That’s a very good question, one that I heartily concur in.]

Asked about Hizb ut-Tahrir as a conveyor belt to terrorism, Mr. Baig said:
“I’m not going to say Hizb ut-Tahir
has been a perfect organization for 20 years.
There are people who have come and gone in the organization.
An atmosphere was created in the youth in the mid-90s.
Mistakes were made.”

Some of the most ardent adherents to the party’s ideas about a caliphate
were expressed by women.

Rubina Ahmed, 33,
a mother of four who came on a charter bus from Manchester, said,
“It’s the in-depthness of the caliphate that I like.”
Hizb ut-Tahrir
“doesn’t compromise on the values of Islam, and
it’s not afraid to speak out for what it wants,”

she said.

Why did Hizb ut-Tahir not work for the goal of the caliphate in Britain,
asked someone in the audience during a question-and-answer session.

“We focus our work where we can get the quickest results,”
said Mr. Abuzahra, the academic.

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