Hizb-ut-Tahrir al-Islami: The Challenge of a Non-Violent Radical Islam
The emergence of Hizb ut-Tahrir in Central Asia has complex roots. Social movement theories provide partial explanation for the causes of this political phenomenon:
- Structural-functional theory suggests that the group has emerged in Central Asia in response to the dire economic and social hardships of the post-Soviet transition.
- Resource mobilization theory argues that the availability of human, organizational, financial, legitimacy, identity and institutional resources can explain the rise of Hizb ut-Tahrir in the region.
- Political opportunities theory claims that Hizb ut-Tahrir moved into the political limelight because of failures and injustice of current governments in Central Asia.
- Framing theory argues that Hizb ut-Tahrir has framed its diagnosis of the political scene in moral terms that point to its own potential for improving well-being in Central Asia (“Islam is the answer”).
Although each contributes toward understanding Hizb ut-Tahrir, these theories nevertheless share a secular framework of perception and tend to ignore the unique inseparability of the Muslim faith from the politics of its adherents. As a result, these theories do not sufficiently consider the importance of Hizb ut-Tahrir’s ideology as a mobilizing force. The disintegration of the Soviet Union has produced an ideological vacuum among Central Asia’s devout Muslims that has been filled by Hizb ut-Tahrir. Its ideology has become popular because it draws its legitimacy from the Quran and other Islamic sacred texts. In this regard it is important to note that Hizb ut-Tahrir attracts relatively educated individuals and is modern in its use of internet and mass media communication.
In addition, social movement theories cannot account for Hizb ut-Tahrir’s 50-year commitment to non-violence; it is rather Hizb ut-Tahrir’s interpretation of early Islamic history that explains its non-violent political methodology. Some Hizb ut-Tahrir members have engaged in political violence, but this appears rare and not supported by Hizb ut-Tahrir leadership.
The study has utilized social movement theories (SMT) to address the rise of Hizb ut-Tahrir in Central Asia and explain its non-violent approach. The emergence of Hizb ut-Tahrir in Central Asia is epistemologically important, because it has raised some interesting questions about the ability of SMT to accommodate the emergence of Islamist groups in non-Western societies. Although the application of conventional SMT to Hizb ut-Tahrir can enrich our understanding of Islamist mobilization in Central Asia, it inherently suffers from a weakness to address the problem of free-riding. Given that people in the region know that Hizb ut-Tahrir works for the establishment of an Islamic state anyway, they can avoid participation and still reap the ‘benefits’. The group’s ideology has provided a mechanism for mobilizing collective action in Central Asia.
For source material, this project relies mostly on primary sources, including Hizb ut-Tahrir publications and documents, official reports, and interviews with scholars, security experts, imams and ulema, journalists, diplomats, government officials and group members.