HT defence & McGill prayer room controversy (updated)

First, Natasha Walter in the Guardian states what we all knew: that Hizbut-Tahrir are not a violent organisation and that there is no reason to ban them. I have to say that her quotes from the two HT women activists she interviewed don’t say much:

But the organisation has other faces too. I first met a couple of articulate women from Hizb ut-Tahrir over a year ago. Among their views on the political system the party would like to see instituted in Muslim states, they talked of its promise of a more equal society focused on distribution rather than production. “There is an alternative to capitalism,” said Ruksana Rahman. Another spokeswoman, Dr Nazreen Nawaz, told me: “The Islamic economic system would provide an answer to poverty.”

Read it all.

Update: Marcus and David T over at Harry’s place have also commented on this. Marcus’s bit contains some really quite stupid remarks:

I’ve compiled one of these handy ‘out’ and ‘in’ guides beloved of fashion magazines for those people - and the are still no shortage of them despite everything that’s happened over the last few years - who think Islamism is a bit like Socialism, just with a bit more praying.

Out Anti-fascism
In Strong male leaders
Out Taking up arms in defence of an elected governments
In Taking up arms to overthrow elected governments
Out Welcoming the contribution of Jewish people
In Welcoming the destruction of Jewish people
Out Women’s rights to drive, vote, give evidence and have some control over their own bodies
In Light dusting if you’re lucky…

Apart from the “strong male leaders” bit (and what’s wrong with a strong male leader if he does his job properly?), each of these statements is an easily-demonstrable falsehood:

(1) Despite the continual bandying-around of the term “Islamo-fascist”, only Iran has ever come close with its personality cult of Khomeini and the pictures of him everywhere - something you also see in secular Arab dictatorships as in Syria and Iraq. Fascism with its police states (i.e. institutionalised spying and suspicion) and personality cults are actually foreign to Islam.
(2) Elected governments: well, the last time I remember an elected government being overthrown in a Muslim country was in Turkey, when the armed forces didn’t like the fact that the people voted for an Islamic party. (Or perhaps they were the biggest single minority which won because of the workings of the electoral system - a common occurrence in western democracies.) And don’t forget Algeria in 1992. As for when Islamists actually overthrew an elected government, umm, I’m trying to think, someone remind me.
(3) Jews: well, they lived in huge numbers in Muslim countries until Arab nationalists (not Islamists) drove them out, or kicked them out. Paul Berman wrote in his recent book Terror and Liberalism (Norton, 2004) that “[Kenan} Makiya tells us that the principal anti-Semitic outbreaks in the Arab world during the twentieth century, in the 1940s and against during the 1960s, were associated with Pan-Arabists of one stripe or another, and not with any other political movement”.
(4) Women: the HT “draft constitution” mentioned in that article does, in fact, give women the right to vote. It does not mention whether women can or cannot drive, although in fact in every Muslim country except Saudi Arabia, they are allowed to drive and (with the exception of Afghanistan under the Taliban) always have been. Of course, abortion is not allowed, at least, to anything like the extent it is in many countries today, because there is a certain point in pregnancy where a baby ceases to be just multiplying cells and becomes a baby. It’s not just about a woman’s body.

The “constitution” is, incidentally, peculiar to that organisation. I’ve only ever seen it discussed in relation to them, and its terminology is uniquely HT’ish - all this talk of “systems” is something for which they are well-known.

It’s not worth getting into a discussion with the Harry’s Place people about whether a state run this way is a desirable objective. The question is whether the organisation should or shouldn’t be banned, when they display none of the characteristics which normally get an organisation banned here - rather than, for example, earning “no-platform” policies at student unions. Even if their members have been involved in violence elsewhere, Sinn Fein’s link to the IRA is, shall we say, rather better established (they have been called the IRA’s political wing many times and have not sued for libel), and have never been banned - despite Enniskillen, despite Warrington, despite Bishopsgate and all the rest. Given that the occasion for all this talk of banning HT is the July 7th and 21st bombings, in which no HT member was involved, it seems strange, to say the least.

Also, it’s been reported on DeenPort that McGill University in Montreal have refused their Muslim students any prayer space. The local MSA have made the following request on the site:

The MSA at McGill University, Montreal, Canada was evicted from its prayer space earlier this year. Since this summer we have been praying in the grass field on campus encountering the heat, rain, wind gusts, mosquitos, lack of privacy and once dog waste which we have cleaned up ourselves.

The MSA is urgently seeking letters of support from other MSAs around the world, community organizations, businesses and most importantly the media. If you are part of any such orgs or know any ‘big’ names who could write a letter of support for our MSA at McGill then please e-mail me at Ahyder@epimg…ll.ca.

I pray you all understand the unrgency of this matter and make dua’ for us if you are not able to help us in any other way.

The full thread can be found on the forums under the thread “Urgent plea for MSA”.

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