Radical Group May Declare Islamic Caliphate in Gaza
By Julie Stahl
CNSNews.com Jerusalem Bureau Chief
August 24, 2006
Jerusalem (CNSNews.com) – Encouraged by Hizballah’s perceived victory in Lebanon, another radical Islamic party may declare an Islamic caliphate in the Gaza Strip on Friday, another step in its effort to see Islam rule the world.
The Hizb ut-Tahrir (Liberation Party) advocates replacing all Muslim governments in the world with one Islamic leader who would then declare the establishment of a worldwide Islamic caliphate.
Although the move has been described as largely symbolic, it highlights a growing trend among Palestinians in the Gaza Strip, analysts say.
Hizb ut-Tahrir, an international Sunni Islamic movement, has gained popularity with Palestinians since Hizballah put up more of a fight in southern Lebanon than Israel and the world expected.
The group rallied thousands of Palestinians to take part in a demonstration in Gaza City on Tuesday, which marked the anniversary of the collapse of the Ottoman Empire (the Islamic Turkish Empire that ruled the Middle East for some 400 years).
According to the Jerusalem Post, protesters called for Israel to be wiped off the map and they called for the establishment of an Islamic caliphate to rule the Palestinian Authority.
One observer, who asked not to be named, said the idea of declaring a caliphate is more symbolic than substantial – a sign of increasing support for Hizb ut-Tahrir, which few people took seriously before this. Many people were surprised at the turnout for the rally, he said.
Jordanian officials recently arrested members of the group in Jordan, after their leader, Ramzi Sawalhah, called for the Jordanian monarchy to be replaced by an Islamic caliphate.
Founded in Jordanian-controlled East Jerusalem in the early 1950s, Hizb ut-Tahrir has now spread to some 40 countries, including the U.S. Because the group believes in one Islamic leader, it has tended to shun the idea of becoming involved in local politics.
Islamic expert Dr. Yoram Kahati of the International Policy Institute for Counter-Terrorism said that although the group operates worldwide, Arab states and others have outlawed the group.
British Prime Minister Tony Blair, however, was unsuccessful in banning the group in England, where it is believed to have its headquarters.
“They are not very active,” said Kahati. During the years of the Palestinian Authority they opposed the peace process, he said.
Kahati downplayed the significance of a caliphate declaration in the Gaza Strip, saying it would be “meaningless” since most people there are more worried about being able to buy food for their families.
The Hamas government there could have two reactions: either seize the opportunity or dismiss it as irresponsible, he said.
Hizb ut-Tahrir was one of the first groups to develop the radical Islamic ideology that affected many other better-known groups that are active today, said Kahati. Recently, the group did declare itself an official political party in Lebanon, he said.
The group believes in bringing about change through indoctrination and not necessarily through force, said Kahati, though it is not opposed to force. “Only once they come to the conclusion that they have enough power, then they support taking [over] by force,” he said.
In May 2003, Dr. Ariel Cohen described Hizb ut-Tahrir as “an emerging threat to American interests in Central and South Asia and the Middle East” in an article on the Heritage Foundation Website.
“Its proclaimed goal is jihad against America and the overthrow of existing political regimes and their replacement with a caliphate, a theocratic dictatorship based on the shari’a (religious Islamic law). The model for Hizb ut Tahrir is the “righteous” caliphate, a militaristic Islamic state that existed in the 7th and 8th centuries under Mohammad and his first four successors, known as the “righteous Caliphs,” said Cohen.
On what is described as the official website of Hizb ut-Tahrir the group said it was founded “in order to resume the Islamic way of life and carry the Islamic call to the world.”
A commentary on the site described as “political” and dated July 25, 2006 (while the Hizballah-Israel war was in full swing and Hizballah rockets were raining down on Israel) says that weapons should be acquired to vanquish Israel and its allies.
“If ‘Israel’ is capable of hitting targets through its air force, then the intensive acquisition of missiles, especially if their delivery systems are upgraded to help them track their targets accurately, will paralyze and deter the entity of the Jews. Then they can be confronted and vanquished together with those who stand behind them…
“It has become apparent to anyone with eyesight that the armies of the Muslims are capable of curbing the freak entity of “Israel” and even wiping it out of existence if they had the true resolve and if they acquired the willpower and the effective weapons to fight their battle against the enemies of the [the people],” it said.