Saturday, 11 October 2014

Hizb Ut-Tahrir is Islamic... and so is the Islamic State

At work I spend much of the day with ABC24 on in the background. It's on in our reception area partly to entertain waiting clients, and partly to make it harder for clients to overhear what staff are saying out the back. Yesterday one of the stories getting play was the ABC Lateline interview with a spokesperson from the fundamentalist/extremist Islamic group Hizb Ut-Tahrir.

If the spokesperson, Wassim Doureihi, does object to the tactics of Islamic State, he butchered an opportunity to distance himself from them. If he was so inclined, he could have responded "Yes, of course we condemn the beheading of aid workers" and defused that line of questioning in a flash. He could then have made his points about western government mistakes in the region with far more authority. If you want to take the moral high ground, you need to step onto it first.

Perhaps Hizb Ut-Tahrir and Wassim Doureihi are appalled by the Islamic State's actions, and he's just not a good enough spokesperson to know how to get on top of an interview. If so, Hizb Ut-Tahrir should fire him and find someone to better present their views.

Perhaps Hizb Ut-Tahrir is a peaceful organisation appalled by the Islamic State, but Wassim Doureihi parts company with them on that count and could not bring himself to condemn those he admires. If so, Hizb Ut-Tahrir should fire him and find someone better to present their views.

More likely, however, is that Hizb Ut-Tahrir is in fact pro-Islamic State, but knows admitting to that would be damaging. If so, Hizb Ut-Tahrir needs to find a spokesperson that is better able to either deflect such questions or just lie and say they condemn Islamic State.

Hizb Ut-Tahrir seeks to implement the same sort of fundamentalist/extremist interpretation of Islam that Islamic State do, but know that while they enjoy their luxuries in the west they need to use other tactics to promote their views.

I found one part of the interview rather amusing, when Doureihi decided to assume victimhood status (9:50 in):
WASSIM DOUREIHI: You can place whatever spin you like. We live it, we experience it.
EMMA ALBERICI: The democratically-elected government in Iraq has invited us in.
WASSIM DOUREIHI: We experience it. And that's why as a Muslim, ...
EMMA ALBERICI: Isn't that a little different to occupying ...
WASSIM DOUREIHI: ... I'm telling the Australian public the reality of what this government is doing in our lands. We live it. It's not an academic exercise. It's not about ...
EMMA ALBERICI: No, you're living in Australia. You're an Australian resident, you're an Australian citizen.
WASSIM DOUREIHI: It's not about point-scoring.
EMMA ALBERICI: You're not living anything in Iraq.
It would be really nice if Doureihi went and actually lived the experience. Let him go and live in Raqqah for a while.

Following the interview, Prime Minister Tony Abbott rightly praised Alberici, and called Hizb Ut-Tahrir un-Islamic. This of course fits in with his many claims that Islamic State is un-Islamic, a worn out assertion he makes routinely. Every time I hear him make this sort of assertion I at least think the word "bullshit", and sometimes mutter it out loud, even at work.

Hizb ut-Tahrir and Islamic State are most certainly Islamic, and the two share many ideals in common. They share many of these things in common with many other Islamic groups and indeed Islamic nations, such as Saudi Arabia, Iran, and Pakistan. Yes, they even share some ideals with relatively benign Muslim majority nations such as Indonesia, Malaysia, and QANTAS's chosen stopover point for many flights, the United Arab Emirates.

Islam is not a monolithic entity. It comes in many interpretations, and the Islamic State is trying to implement one such interpretation, no more or less "true Islam" than any other. It certainly is not the interpretation we would like to see dominate, and it's not an interpretation that will see Muslims live flourishing lives, but it's Islamic nonetheless.

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