The problem with banning Hizb ut-Tahrir

Proscribing these Islamist scumbags will do nothing to tackle their ideas.

Luke Gittos

Luke Gittos

Topics Free Speech Politics UK

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UK home secretary James Cleverly laid a draft order before parliament last week that proscribed Islamist political group Hizb ut-Tahrir under the Terrorism Act.

This means that it will now be illegal for Hizb ut-Tahrir to organise in the UK. Anyone belonging to, inviting support for or displaying material that expresses support for the group will be breaking the law. Justifying the decision, Cleverly said that ‘Hizb ut-Tahrir is an anti-Semitic organisation that actively promotes and encourages terrorism, including praising and celebrating the appalling 7 October attacks’ in Israel.

Many commentators clearly feel that Hizb ut-Tahrir’s proscription was ‘long overdue’. After all, the governments of both Tony Blair and David Cameron made abortive moves to ban it in the 2000s and 2010s. And it is already proscribed in Germany, China and in many Arab countries.

It seems that Hizb ut-Tahrir’s response to Hamas’s pogrom on 7 October has finally prompted the government to take action. Within hours of Hamas’s massacre of Israeli civilians, Hizb ut-Tahrir’s leaders described the terror group as ‘heroes’ and declared that, ‘If this can be done by a resistance group, imagine what a unified response from the Muslim world could achieve’. They then organised their own rallies in London, featuring calls for ‘jihad’ and military intervention from ‘Muslim armies’. (Many were shocked that the Metropolitan Police took no action, especially given their propensity for arresting people for speaking out of turn on social media.)

Make no mistake, Hizb ut-Tahrir is a vile, anti-Semitic organisation. And its public cheerleading for Hamas has been shameful. Yet we should still oppose its proscription, for several reasons.

Firstly, a ban will be grist to its mill. It will allow Hizb ut-Tahrir to play the victim, and present itself as being unjustly suppressed by the British state. Secondly, a ban won’t tackle Hizb ut-Tahrir’s vicious ideology. It will merely drive it underground where it will go unchallenged. This is why trying to ban ideas is always dangerous and counterproductive. If we’re serious about tackling the likes of Hizb ut-Tahrir, we need to challenge them through robust public debate. When it comes to terrible ideas, sunlight is the best disinfectant.

Thirdly, we should always be wary about allowing the government to decide which organisations are permitted to organise and which are not. The process of proscription gives too much power to the state to make political decisions about what are and aren’t acceptable ideas. Consider the fate of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), which was proscribed in 2001, despite not posing any obvious terrorist threat to the UK. In fact, the PKK and its Syrian allies, the Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG), played a key role in the fight against ISIS in Syria and Iraq during the 2010s.

Hizb ut-Tahrir deserves the strongest possible condemnation. But if we truly support free speech, we shouldn’t be cheerleading its proscription under terror legislation. We should be using our freedoms of speech and assembly – the very freedoms that the likes of Hizb ut-Tahrir would like to deny others – to organise and march against it. Above all, we need to expose Hizb ut-Tahrir as the nasty, reactionary force it so clearly is. Censorship only makes martyrs out of scumbags.

Luke Gittos is a spiked columnist and author. His most recent book is Human Rights – Illusory Freedom: Why We Should Repeal the Human Rights Act, which is published by Zero Books. Order it here.

Picture by: YouTube.

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Topics Free Speech Politics UK


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