The international Islamist network Hizb ut-Tahrir wants to bring its anti-Western rhetoric to a Chicagoland hotel.
Hizb ut-Tahrir (HT), the “party of liberation,” has been linked to religious extremism around the world. Nonetheless, the group’s U.S. chapter, HT America, has for several years held events around the Chicago area, as well as in Virginia, Washington D.C., and Michigan. HT America’s annual Khilafa Conference is a conclave extolling the virtues of establishing a global Islamic caliphate and condemning democratic values.
Last year, HT originally booked its confab at the Holiday Inn & Suites in Carol Stream, Illinois. However, the hotel made the responsible decision of canceling the reservation after the Counter Extremism Project (CEP) alerted it to HT’s history and examples of its extreme rhetoric. Unfortunately, the group found an alternative location. Now, HT is planning to return to the Chicago area on April 14 for its annual conference, and Chicago’s hospitality industry should follow Holiday Inn’s example by uniformly revoking the welcome mat.
Although HT doesn’t explicitly call for violence, it indoctrinates the impressionable to a way of thinking that can and has led members down the slippery path to a life of extremism. Among HT’s infamous alumni are 9/11 mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and former al-Qaeda in Iraq leader Abu Musab al-Zarqawi. ISIS executioner Mohammed Emwazi, a.k.a. “Jihadi John,” reportedly attended HT events while in university in England. In 1996, former HT leader Omar Bakri Muhammad co-founded the outlawed British terrorist network al-Muhajiroun, which has reportedly been tied to half of the terrorist attacks in the United Kingdom between 1995 and 2015.
HT seeks to transform Muslim governments into a single Islamic caliphate based on an ultra-conservative interpretation of the Quran. HT intends to do this through grassroots outreach in order to sway Muslims to effect change through popular protest.
HT America insists that this goal pertains only to Muslim nations, not Western countries like the United States. Nevertheless, HT leaders based in Western democracies have spoken out vociferously against the Western values of freedom and tolerance. At past HT America conferences, speakers have excoriated democracy as un-Islamic and urged Muslims not to participate in elections. At HT’s April 2018 conference at Belvedere Chateau in Palos Hills, Illinois, featured speaker Haitham Ibn Thbait asserted that HT is working “to revive the Islamic ummah (global Muslim community) from its intellectual decline and liberate it from the thoughts and systems of the ways of kuffar (infidels).”
HT America has further accused the United States of leading an international cabal of colonialists. The group believes that its political positions are rooted in the “struggle against the disbelieving imperialists.” HT America further believes that “greed, death and destruction” are the “core symbols” of the American dream, and only Islam can provide a functional alternative to the “superficial glamour and mirage of democracy and freedom.” All of these statements are readily available on HT America’s website.
Abroad, the group’s rhetoric is equally extreme. Abdul Wahid, executive chair of HT Britain, has condemned valuable and necessary extremist deradicalization programs for “making people less Islamic.” In Australia, HT leaders have called for the death penalty for those who leave Islam and outright called Jews “the most evil of Allah’s creatures.” In addition to these individuals, all of HT’s international chapters follow the guidance of the movement’s global emir, Ata Abu Rashta, who has accused America of conspiring against the global Muslim community, and called for violent attacks on Jews living in Israel. This extreme rhetoric informs HT chapters across the world.
HT has been banned in 14 countries, including Germany, Turkey, Russia, and Jordan. Using freedom of speech as a shield for its odious rhetoric, HT remains free to operate within many Western democracies, including Australia, Great Britain, and the United States. Ironically, HT literature has denigrated free speech for encouraging “immorality among women, vice, profanity, and corruption.” Through its own rhetoric, HT has shown that its core mission is the elimination of freedom and tolerance through a radical ideology.
Private U.S. corporations have no obligation to provide HT with a venue or platform for extremist speech. The Chicago Marriott Oak Brook canceled an HT event in 2010, and the Meadows Club in Rolling Meadows refused to host HT’s annual conference in 2012. And, of course, the Holiday Inn’s parent group, Intercontinental Hotels Group, canceled HT’s reservation last year. Chicago’s hotel chains and conference centers should follow these courageous examples by thoroughly rejecting HT’s brand of extremism and denying the group a venue this year.