Islamic Hardliners return for Sydney convention after push for ban fails
- Sally Neighbour
- From: The Australian
- July 03, 2010 12:00AM
HUNDREDS of Islamic activists are assembling in Sydney for a convention being held by the controversial Islamist group Hizb ut-Tahrir.
This is its first big event in Australia since a failed push to outlaw it three years ago.
Senior Hizb ut-Tahrir (HT) members have flown in from Britain for the conference, which is part of a series of events being held around the world, as the group steps up its campaign for the formation of a trans-national Islamic state.
HT’s Australian spokesman, Uthman Badar, said the conference, the theme of which was the “struggle for Islam in the West”, was aimed at countering rising hostility to “all things Islamic” in the Western world.
“Whether it be the US, the UK or Australia, we see constant attacks on Islam, its values, practices and symbols,” Mr Badar said.
“If it’s not the face veil that becomes a security issue overnight in Australia, it’s the minarets that frighten Switzerland.”Security agencies will be closely monitoring the conference.
In 2007, when HT held its last international assembly in Australia, the federal government considered banning the organisation in response to claims that it incites religious hatred and indirectly encourages terrorism.
But ASIO advised the then attorney-general Philip Ruddock that there was insufficient evidence to proscribe the group as it did not advocate terrorism.
HT explicitly rejects the use of violence in its quest for an Islamic state. But it supports militant campaigns against Western forces in Afghanistan and Iraq, and opposes the existence of Israel, which it calls an “illegitimate” state that “must be removed”.
“Hizb ut-Tahrir’s platform actually forbids its members from acts of terror and there is no clear evidence of (HT) engaging in terrorism or the preparation of terrorism,” said Clive Williams, head of terrorism studies at the Australian National University. “There are many instances, though, of those whose views were forged in Hizb ut-Tahrir subsequently taking part in terrorism.”
HT is banned in much of the Middle East, but operates legally in more than 40 countries, with an estimated one million members worldwide.
It has been active in Australia since the early 1990s.
Mr Badar denied the organisation was extremist. “There is nothing extreme about wanting representative, accountable governance in the Muslim world, or wanting the end of foreign interference there by removing the despots who rule,” he said.
Conservative community groups in Sydney are planning a rally to coincide with Sunday’s conference in Lidcombe to demonstrate their opposition to HT.
“We’re really concerned, we believe (the philosophy) of Hizb ut-Tahrir is not one of peace and co-existence. They want world domination,” said Nick Folkes, Sydney organiser for the Australian Protectionist Party, a fringe group that supports ending all Muslim immigration.
“Co-existence cannot happen. It’s all lovely and fluffy to say co-existence is possible, but it’s not. We want to end Islamic immigration because they want sharia law and we don’t want it.”