In the coming months, Hizb ut-Tahrir America—the U.S. chapter of the Hizb ut-Tahrir (“HT”) Islamist network—plans to host its annual Khilafa Conference, which extols the virtues of establishing a future global Islamic caliphate. While HT doesn’t explicitly call for violence, it does indoctrinate the impressionable to a way of thinking that can and has led members toward violent extremism. Because of its incendiary and radical teachings, Hilton, Ramada, Best Western, and other hotel companies should thoroughly reject HT’s brand of extremism and deny HT a venue.
HT seeks to transform existing Muslim governments into a single Islamic caliphate based on a hardline interpretation of the Quran. HT intends to do this through grassroots outreach to sway Muslims to effect change through popular protest. HT’s international leaders have spoken out vociferously against Western ideals of freedom and tolerance. For example, Australian HT representative Uthman Bader has openly endorsed the death penalty for Muslim apostates. Abdul Wahid, executive chair of HT Britain, has denounced valuable and necessary extremist deradicalization programs for “making people less Islamic.”
Former HT leader Maajid Nawaz, now a renowned international advocate against extremism, has recalled the “ambivalent” attitude toward terrorist violence within HT, which has its share of infamous alumni. Before joining al-Qaeda, both Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and former al-Qaeda in Iraq leader Abu Musab al-Zarqawi were members of HT. 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 founded al-Muhajiroun with Anjem Choudary. The British government has outlawed al-Muhajiroun, a terrorist organization that is reportedly linked to half of the terrorist attacks in the United Kingdom since 1995. Choudary is currently serving a prison sentence for supporting ISIS, while Bakri Muhammad is serving a prison sentence in Lebanon for creating a Lebanese al-Qaeda affiliate.
HT has been banned in multiple countries, including Germany, Turkey, Russia, and Jordan. Using freedom of speech as a shield for its odious rhetoric, HT remains free to operate within most Western democracies, including Australia, Great Britain, and the United States. The Australian and British governments have sought to ban the group.
While HT certainly has the constitutional right to free speech and assembly, private U.S. corporations have no obligation to provide them venues for the propagation of extremism. Indeed, there is precedent for rejecting HT. In 2012, the Meadows Club in Illinois refused to host HT’s annual conference. Marriott also canceled a 2010 HT event in Illinois. Since 2014, HT America has found a home at the Ramada Inn in Glendale Heights, Illinois, where it has held at least nine events. In 2017, the Ramada hosted HT’s annual conference in April and then another gathering in June.
CEP has written to Ramada’s corporate management—the Wyndham Hotel Group—requesting that it examine HT’s record and bar the organization from using its facilities. While the hotel chain did not respond, HT’s public event in November, 2017 was instead held at the Hilton Indian Lakes Hotel in Bloomingdale, Illinois. We hope that means Ramada’s corporate leaders reconsidered the business ramifications of hosting a global Islamist group. Sadly, the Hilton corporation has also been unresponsive to written concerns about HT.
Both companies boast of their commitment to corporate social responsibility and human rights. This should include denying space to groups that overtly promote radical ideologies. These hotel chains should take the moral and responsible stand and ensure that there is no room for hatred and extremism.