Phone calls and emails warning of protests have forced a Chicago-area club to cancel a conference by a radical Islamic group.
The group in question advocates for a global Islamic caliphate ruled by strict Sharia law. They are also banned in several countries, including Pakistan, where it advocates the government's overthrow, and Germany.
Yet the U.S. branch of the international Hizb ut-Tahrir (HIZB'-uh tah-HREER') movement has found a permanent home in America and still plans to hold a conference in the area on June 17. The group claims to reject violence.
Organizers were expecting 1,000 people to attend the event under the title "Revolution: Liberation by Revelation - Muslims Marching Toward Victory." Topics were to include the motivations and reasons for revolution in Syria.
The Daily Herald reported Wednesday that The Meadows Club in suburban Rolling Meadows pulled out of the event after a deluge of calls and emails. The Herald actually called those who protested the conference "conservatives" without providing evidence to back up the claim.
“The call is not to bring that here to this country or anything of that sort,” Reza Iman, a Chicago area spokesman for Hizb ut-Tahrir America, told The Herald. “The message is for Muslim countries to return to Islamic values.
“Part of it is just having confidence in Islam as a way of life, and that's a majority of what our work is, whether we discuss problems that are economic, ideological or social. It's about how to address these problems from the Islamic viewpoint," he added.
The Herald has more details:
[The conference] caught the attention of conservative commentators and political activists Pamela Geller and Robert Spencer, co-founders of Stop Islamization of America, who launched a campaign against the conference through Spencer's website, Jihad Watch, and Geller's blog, Atlas Shrugs.
Minnesota congresswoman and former Republican presidential candidate Michelle Bachmann, speaking at last week's Conservative Political Action Conference in Rosemont, called on President Barack Obama to “shut down” the conference because of possible terrorist ties.
Hizb ut-Tahrir America held conferences in Oak Lawn in 2009 and Oak Brook in 2011, though not without controversy. Conservative groups have rallied to stop conferences in several states, and organizers have had trouble scheduling events in the Chicago area, Iman said.
The FBI and U.S. Department of Homeland Security did not respond to requests for information about Hizb ut-Tahrir. The group is not on the Secretary of State's list of designated foreign terrorist organizations.
“I have not seen any evidence they have engaged in violent activity in the U.S.,” said Thomas Mockaitis, a history professor at DePaul University and author of the book, “The 'New' Terrorism: Myths and Reality.”
“The label of terrorism is far too often pinned on anybody you don't like,” he said. “If we start making that the criteria for free speech and assembly, we're going to have some real issues.”
The Hizb ut-Tahrir movement is not a new initiative, it may just be gaining steam. It was started nearly six decades ago and has been working in the U.S. since the mid-'80s.
However, even many so-called "mainstream" Muslims in the U.S. have rejected the group for its radical ideology, Zaher Sahloul, chairman of the Council of Islamic Organizations of Greater Chicago, told The Herald.
“They are on the fringes of the political Islamic groups,” Sahloul said. “They are very vocal and they target young Muslims in college (who) are attracted to their ideologies. They tend to disrupt lectures, Friday prayers. Most of the time they are kicked out from mosques.”
The minor setback will not deter the Hizb ut-Tahrir movement in the U.S., Iman said. After all, he explains, they only wish to "discuss their views with the public." Their conference has been rescheduled for June 17 in the Chicago area, though a venue hasn't been announced.
“We understand that our ideas are not mainstream, and we created this conference purposefully to discuss our views with the public,” Iman said. “It's purely intellectual work. And we do understand that there may be some who don't want that discourse to take place. We are still trying to resolve that issue.”
Well, let's also take a look at the goals of the group currently posted on its website:
Hizb ut-Tahrir is a political party whose ideology is Islam. Its objective is to resume the Islamic way of life by establishing an Islamic State that executes the systems of Islam and carries its call to the world. Hizb ut-Tahrir has prepared a party culture that includes a host of Islamic rules about life’s matters.
The party calls for Islam in its quality as an intellectual leadership from which emanates the systems that deals with all man’s problems, political, economic, cultural and social among others. Hizb ut-Tahrir is a political party that admits to its membership men and women, and calls all people to Islam and to adopt its concepts and systems. It views people according to the viewpoint of Islam no matter how diverse their nationalities and their schools of thought were.
Hizb ut-Tahrir adopts the interaction with the Ummah in order to reach its objective and it struggles against colonialism in all its forms and attributes in order to liberate the Ummah from its intellectual leadership and to deracinate its cultural, political, military and economic roots from the soil of the Islamic lands. Hizb ut-Tahrir endeavours to change the erroneous thoughts which colonialism has propagated, such as confining Islam to rituals and morals.
Hizb ut-Tahrir America's trailer for their upcoming Caliphate conference in Chicago features Shaykh al-Zaghby who calls for Muslims to "Rise up to aid and support the call for Khilafah (Caliphate) even if it at the expense of your lives." The video also shows crowds of people chanting, "The people want Khilafah once again!" Watch it here:
The Blaze previously reported on the movement's global "Caliphate Conference 2012," which took place in Austria in March. The Media Research Center posted a translated version of Hizb ut-Tahrir's promotional video for the conference:
The Associated Press contributed to this report. Featured image courtesy of the British National Party.
This story has been updated with additional information.