An international Islamist network and its anti-Western rhetoric wants to check into a Chicago area hotel.
That organization is Hizb ut-Tahrir (“HT”), the “party of liberation,” which has been linked to religious extremism around the world. Nonetheless, the group has for several years held events around the Chicago area, as well as in Virginia, Washington D.C., and Michigan. In 2017, the group’s U.S. chapter, HT America, held events at the Hilton Indian Lakes in Bloomingdale and the Ramada Inn in Glendale Heights, both in Illinois. The Ramada Inn has hosted several of its events since 2014.
HT’s annual Khilafa Conference, a conclave extolling the virtues of establishing a global Islamic caliphate, had originally been scheduled for April 22 at the Holiday Inn Hotel & Suites in Carol Stream. The Holiday Inn apparently reversed its decision and the conference is now scheduled for April 29 at an as-yet unconfirmed location. The Counter Extremism Project (CEP) previously sent the Holiday Inn a letter containing background information and examples of HT’s extreme rhetoric.
HT doesn’t explicitly call for violence. But 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 since 1995. Bakri Muhammad is currently serving a prison sentence in Lebanon for creating a Lebanese al-Qaeda affiliate.
The group 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 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 often and vociferously against the Western ideals of freedom and tolerance. At past HT conferences, speakers such as Haitham Ibn Thbait have excoriated democracy as un-Islamic. At HT’s May 2016 conference in Glendale Heights, Ibn Thbait declared then-President Barack Obama to be a terrorist who “represents a system of terrorism.” Ibn Thbait is once again scheduled to address this year’s conference.
HT has accused the United States of leading an international cabal of colonialists. It believes that HT’s political positions are rooted in the “struggle against the disbelieving imperialists.” HT 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.”
Abroad, the group’s rhetoric is equally extreme. An HT representative in Australia, Uthman Bader, has openly endorsed the death penalty for Muslim apostates. Abdul Wahid, executive chair of HT in Britain, has condemned valuable and necessary extremist deradicalization programs for “making people less Islamic.”
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 most Western democracies, including Australia, Great Britain, and the United States, though the Australian and British governments have both tried to ban the group. Ironically, HT literature has denigrated free speech for encouraging “immorality among women, vice, profanity, and corruption."
Hilton and Ramada's parent company, Wyndham Hotel Group, boast of their commitment to corporate social responsibility and support for human rights. This should include denying a welcoming environment to groups that promote extremist ideology.
HT has the constitutional right to free speech and assembly, but private U.S. corporations have no obligation to provide them venues. Such a thing happened in 2010, when the Chicago Marriott Oak Brook canceled an HT event in Illinois, and in 2012, when the Meadows Club in Rolling Meadows refused to host HT’s annual conference. And, of course, the Holiday Inn’s parent group, Intercontinental Hotels Group, canceled HT’s reservation this year.
Other hotel chains should follow these examples and ensure there are no rooms in Illinois for hatred and extremism.