Islamist group Hizb ut-Tahrir to be banned from organising in UK | UK security and counter-terrorism

Hizb ut-Tahrir will be banned from organising in the UK after claims that the group is antisemitic, the home secretary has said.

The Islamist group, which is already banned in countries including Germany and Indonesia, will no longer be allowed to recruit or hold protests and meetings across the UK.

Ministers have criticised the group after demonstrations held against Israeli strikes on Gaza.

If agreed by parliament, a draft order that was laid on Monday will come into force on 19 January. This means that belonging to, inviting support for and displaying articles in a public place in a way that arouses suspicion of membership or support for the group will be a criminal offence.

James Cleverly, the home secretary, said: “Hizb ut-Tahrir is an antisemitic organisation that actively promotes and encourages terrorism, including praising and celebrating the appalling 7 October attacks.

“Proscribing this terrorist group will ensure that anyone who belongs to and invites support for them will face consequences. It will curb Hizb ut-Tahrir’s ability to operate as it currently does.”

Certain proscription offences can be punishable by up to 14 years in prison, which can be handed down by a court alongside, or in place of, a fine.

Since the 7 October attacks by Hamas and the subsequent military response by Israel, Hizb ut-Tahrir has not condemned Hamas, a group already proscribed in the UK, rather hailing the attacks on Israeli citizens by saying “if this can be done by a resistance group, imagine what a unified response from the Muslim world could achieve”. It has called on Muslim countries to “get your armies and go and remove the Zionist occupiers”.

Previously Hizb ut-Tahrir, which Tony Blair and David Cameron tried to ban when they were in Downing Street, has made calls to “wipe out that Zionist entity” and referred to “the monstrous Jews”.

In October, the group’s members attended a rally outside the Egyptian and Turkish embassies in London and called for “Muslim armies” to attack Israel.

The head of Hizb ut-Tahrir in the UK, Abdul Wahid, has spent more than 20 years practising as a family doctor under his real name, Dr Wahid Asif Shaida.

After a Mail on Sunday report, Shaida confirmed he was also known as Abdul Wahid but denied Hizb ut-Tahrir was “extremist”, saying the word was “pejorative” and did not have an agreed meaning. He added: “For reasons of professional probity I keep a very clear line between my professional and political life.”

Shaida has been approached for a comment.Hizb ut-Tahrir seeks the establishment of a caliphate in the Middle East. Critics, including former members of the group, have claimed it is a gateway to violent extremism.

Blair vowed to ban Hizb ut-Tahrir as part of a counter-extremism plan after the 7 July 2005 bombings, but the proposal was dropped.

Blair’s failure was criticised by David Cameron, who called Hizb ut-Tahrir “a conveyor-belt to terrorism”. But by the time Cameron stepped down as prime minister eight years later, there was no ban in place.

On both occasions, the plans were dropped after protests that the group was non-violent and claims from lawyers that a ban would be unenforceable.

With headquarters in Lebanon, the group operates in at least 32 countries including the US, Canada and Australia, with a “long-term goal of establishing a caliphate ruled under Islamic law”, the Home Office said.

It was established in Jerusalem in the 1950s with a vision of an international caliphate across all Muslim countries.

It rose to prominence in the early 1990s under the leadership of Omar Bakri Muhammed, the so-called “Tottenham Ayatollah”, who left in 1996 to set up the more hardline group al-Muhajiroun.

The remaining leaders have argued that they are law-abiding. The group’s stated public position is that it does not support Hamas or advocate the use of violence to achieve an Islamic state.

A spokesperson for Hizb ut-Tahrir said it would challenge the ban in the courts and plans to hold an online meeting to discuss the Middle East on Tuesday.

“Hizb ut-Tahrir Britain explicitly states that it will challenge the proposed proscription using all available legal means,” the statement said. “Regardless of the outcome for Hizb ut-Tahrir, the political struggle in highlighting the genocide in Gaza, exposing the west’s colonial agenda and the obligation to work to restore Islam as a just way of life will always continue.”

Yvette Cooper, Labour’s shadow home secretary, welcomed the ban. “It is right that the government has looked urgently at the evidence and intelligence information available to them about the threat posed by Hizb ut-Tahrir, and we welcome and support the decision to proscribe them,” she said.

Senior Tories have previously criticised Keir Starmer for representing Hizb ut-Tahrir in 2008 when the group tried to overturn a ban in Germany. Starmer was one of a team of lawyers who submitted an application to the European court of human rights which was turned down and the ban remained.

Labour has said he took the job because barristers may not withhold their services based on a client’s conduct, opinions or beliefs, and that he left it before any oral hearing to become director of public prosecutions. As DPP, he went on to prosecute “terrorists with links to Hizb ut-Tahrir and led the first ever prosecution of al-Qaida,” the party said.

This article was amended on 16 January 2024. An earlier version stated incorrectly that Keir Starmer took the job of representing Hizb ut-Tahrir under “cab rank” rules.


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