Islamic Movements in Uzbekistan: Who is Hizb-ut-Tahrir?

Term Paper, 2006

27 Pages, Grade: 17 von 20



I. Preface

II. Introduction
1.) The Umma-Concept
2.) I slamic Movements in Central Asia: Between Nation and Umma

III. Roots, Emergence in Uzbekistan and Ideology
1.) Origins
2.) Emergence in Uzbekistan
3.) Introduction to the Ideology of the Liberation Party

IV. Organization and Political Methodology
1.) Organization
2.) Political Methodology

V. Attitude Towards Violence

V. Conclusion

Islamic Movements in Uzbekistan:

“Who is Hizb ut-Tahrir?”

I. Preface

"The riot was organized by the followers of the Akramia movement, which is a new part of the Hizb-ut-Tahrir movement. The organization's objectives are absolutely unacceptable for us. They are about hatred and the rejection of the secular way of development"

Islam Karimov, 2005[1]

Islam and Islamic movements have become a crucial political issue in Uzbekistan. Despite having taken some transitional democratic measures (opposition parties were granted legal status, an ombudsman was appointed, etc.), and even though President Karimov had shown an early interest in Western (and in particular European) institutional systems, it seems that over the past five years (since the bombing on 6 February 1999 in Tashkent) the democratic process in Uzbekistan has taken a step back to practices inherited from Soviet times. Freedom of expression is today severely restricted in Uzbekistan, with essentially no independent press.[2] Moreover political opposition became almost impossible. In the declaration by the Presidency on behalf of the European Union on the Parliamentary elections in Uzbekistan the EU noted with concern that only government-approved parties were registered for the 26 December 2004 Legislative Chamber Elections and that, over the last twelve months, three aspiring political parties were not permitted to register.[3] Much of the state’s repressive apparatus and many of the its negative economic policies have been attributed to the need to fight against Islamic extremist.[4] The most prominent Islamic groups in Uzbekistan are the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan (IMU) and Hizb ut-Tahrir (HuT).[5] After much of the IMU (Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan) infrastructure and capacity was destroyed during the U.S.-led military campaign in Afghanistan in 2001 its role in challenging the regime of President Karimov´s regime states has been taken over by the non-violent radical group Hizb ut-Tahrir.[6] Unlike the IMU, the HuT is a true transnational organization that consists of semi-independent branches, only some of which are in Central Asia. In Central Asia, it has been most active in Uzbekistan.

The purpose and the limit of this paper is to give an overview of the historical background, the ideology, the organisational structures and the aims of the Hizb ut-Tahrir. Special attention will be paid to its political methodology and its attitude towards violence, which is essential to understand and assess the role of Islamic movements such as Hizb ut-Tahrir Uzbekistan. Due to the government’s crackdown of the party, state propaganda, conflicting media reports lead by internal and external interest groups and the parties own propaganda agenda it is very difficult to find reliable information about the parties involvement in the region. However, the International Crisis Group (ICG)[7] is the trustworthiest source in this aspect since it has a regular and extended coverage of the area and its political situation with a special focus on the Islamic movements. In addition, they have on the spot teams with direct contact to locals which gives them additional credibility. The papers statements regarding the party’s activities in Uzbekistan are thus mostly based on ICG report about Hizb ut-Tahrir in Central Asia.

II. Introduction

1.) The Umma-Concept

“The Fatherland of a Muslim is the place where the Seriat prevails.”

M. Said Halim Pasa, 1917[8]

Traditional Islamic states such as the Ottoman Empire were not based on the nation-state concept but on the Umma concept. The nucleus of the Islamic polity was the religio-political community which the Prophet founded and led in Medina – the “Umma dun al-nas,” the community distinguished from the rest of mankind.[9] The central idea of Islam was of a community of believers regardless of race or language; “Umma” refers to community of brothers in faith. The division between believer and unbeliever became and remained the fundamental division of mankind among the Muslim peoples. The world was divided into “Dar al-Islam,” the House of Islam, and the “Dar al-Harb,” the House of War, or lands under infidel rule. Then religion constituted the basis for one’s individual identity.[10] When the European powers referred for example to “Turkey” and the “Turks”, the Turks considered themselves as Muslims belonging to the “Umma.” They were subjects of the Sultan and the Caliph. Religious affiliation dominated the thinking of the Muslims. It was far more crucial than ethnic or national identity.[11] A trend, which obviously did not prevail during the post-colonial period. The traditional Umma came to a formal end with the abolishment of the Caliphate by Mustafa Kemal Atatürk on the 3rd of March.[12] The practical end was a result of the post-colonial period where Nation states where founded all along the Muslim world following the European example and where the ruling elites fostered the establishment of national identities and allegiance on the expenses of trans-regional and trans-ethnic solidarity of the supranational Muslim community of the Umma.

2.) Islamic Movements in Central Asia: Between Nation and Umma

According to Roy and Abou Zahab in their book about Islamic networks,[13] two major trends have emerged as part of Islamic militancy in the Muslim world and especially in Central Asia: One is Islamo-nationalism. The other is termed International Salafiyism.

In terms of the first trend, it is asserted that many of the mainstream Islamic movements have shifted from a struggle in the name of a supranational Muslim community into a kind of Islamic nationalism. These activists want to be fully recognized as legitimate actors on the domestic political scene, recognize the nation and the state and often identify with both, and have largely given up the supranational agenda that was part of their ideology. These Islamo-nationalist movements want the Shariat (Islamic law) to be taken into account, but they want it to be taken into account as part of state law. They recognize that there should be state institutions, such as a parliament and elections.[14] In Central Asia, the prototype of a new defined Islamo-Nationalist party is the Islamic Renaissance Party in Tajikistan.[15]

The second trend mentioned is the emergence of International Salafism. While the denomination of the former group is self-explaining the term Salafism[16] needs some descriptors: As part of their official doctrine, the Salafis do not recognize or acknowledge interpretations of different schools of Islam that emerged and plead for a strict and literal interpretation of the Koran struggling for the establishment of Muslim life similar to that which prevailed according to their interpretation at the time of the Prophet.[17] The Salafist movements have their origins in Saudi-Arabia. The kingdom’s dominant school of Islam is often called Wahhabism by non-Saudis, in reference to Muhammad bin Abdul Wahhab, an eighteenth-century desert preacher who allied himself with the al Saud family when it first established political control over the Arabian Peninsula, and whose descendants are still among Saudi Arabia’s most important official clergy. Many Saudis reject the term “Wahhabism” as pejorative; they regard Wahhab’s ideas as Islam itself, properly interpreted, and they argue that no other label is required. Some Saudis acknowledge their country’s dominant theology as a distinct school of Islamic thought, but they will typically refer to this school as Salafism, a term that refers to the beliefs and practices of the earliest followers of Islam.[18] The different International Salafiyist movements belonging to this fraction are absolute in their believe in the Umma concept. They do not accept national boundaries or ethnic or national interest group and refuse geographic limitations even if they are only active in one country or region.[19] Hizb ut Tahir (The Party of Islamic Liberation) which calls for an establishment of an Islamic Caliphate across the Middle East and Central Asia stands apart from better known radical Salafist movements like the Taliban and Al-Queida by its opposition to the use of violence. However, its views remain highly radical, advocating the overthrow of governments throughout the Muslim world and their replacement by a common Islamic state in the form of a (re-) created Caliphate.

III. Roots, Emergence in Uzbekistan and Ideology

1.) Origins

The founding of Hizb ut-Tahrir (HT) is deeply connected with the Israeli-Palestine Conflict and thus the personal history of its founder Sheikh Taqiuddin an-Nabhani al-Falastani. Born in Haifa in 1909 he was educated at the Al-Azhar University and Dar ul-Ulum University in Cairo, Egypt. He served as a judge in various courts in Lebanon and Palestine, and also taught at the Islamic University in Amman, Jordan. An-Nabhani established the movement in the Jordanian-ruled East Jerusalem suburb of Bayt ul-Maqdis in 1952 or 1953. Other known HT founders include Khaled Hassan, a founding member of the Palestine Liberation Organization’s (PLO) militant Fatah faction, and Sheikh Assad Tamimi, Islamic Jihad’s spiritual leader.[20]

Like the better known pan-Arab movement the Baath party, Hizb ut-Tahrir took on characteristics of a modern political party with a party programme and structures. It is important to be aware that before 1924, there was nothing resembling a modern political party in the Islamic world.[21]

In both organizations structures are hierarchical and decentralized, resembling the Marxist-Leninist groups and echoing the concept of the party as a revolutionary vanguard.[22]

The founders of both movements were motivated and driven by the constant decline of the Arab societies,[23] the dominance of the colonial powers and the establishment of Israel on the Arab Peninsula. However, contrary to the Baath ideology of of pan-Arab secular nationalism with socialist leanings[24] from the beginning Hizb ut-Tahrir rejected limitation to the Arab nation and was aiming at re-creating and re-uniting the Umma and re-establishing the Caliphate. According to An-Nabhani the struggle for a national “revival” is a colonialist project designed to divert the people’s attention away from the issue of the Islamic State.[25] By the same token he rejected the Western ideological systems of socialism and capitalism both of which competed to dominate Muslim societies and divide the Umma.[26] As Suha Taji-Farouki puts it:” Taqiuddin an-Nabhani was one of the first Arab intellectuals to argue the case for a modern political party using the constructs of Islamic discourse.”[27] However, An-Nabhani insists on the fact that the Islamic State must start in the Arab territories (being part of the Islamic world). Since they speak Arabic, and since Arabic is an essential part of Islam and its culture. Furthermore, combining the power of the Arabic language with that of Islam is necessary, because each has the ability to influence, expand and propagate. Therefore, it is only natural for An-Nabhani that the Islamic State to be re-established in the Arab territories, so that it will serve as a nucleus for the Islamic State which will encompass all Islamic lands.[28]

Suha Taji-Farouki lists the organizations failed attempt to overthrow governments by military force in Syria, Jordan and Iraq in the seventies leading to a decline in member’s activity.[29] In

fact when An-Nabhani died in 1977 the Caliphate was farer away than by the time the movement was founded. However, Hizb ut-Tahrir managed to go from a local and regional organization operating within the Mashrek states to a global movement currently active in over forty countries.[30] The repression of Hizb-ut-Tahrir in the Middle East led some of its members even to set up new chapters in Western Europe were they granted asylum by the Western countries believing that their interests would not be harmed by the religious and political activism of

the group.[31] The organizations main websites,, has seven languages listed: Arabic, Turkish, Russian, English, German, Urdu and Danish showing its global agenda which faces harsh reactions in many countries. The Hizb is currently outlawed throughout Turkey, the Middle East and North Africa. In 2003 it was banned in Russia, Pakistan and also in Germany.[32] In addition, all Central Asian Republics have banned the party.[33]

2.) Emergence in Uzbekistan

With the Soviet collapse, it also started working in Central Asia, where it began growing rapidly in the second half of the 1990s especially in Uzbekistan and faced fierce repression.[34] One possible explanation expressed for why HuT has been able to find a foothold in Central Asia is that this region was already familiar with the Leninist lexicon (vanguard, confrontation, revolution) used by the party. It was the same language that had been spoken in the region for the last 80 or so years. When HuT arrived in Central Asia using the same language, it appeared to some people as a continuation of the previous political system, with Mecca replacing Moscow as the locus of veneration.[35]


[1] President Karimov´s statement to the press following the Andijan Massacre, for details on the events and the governments involvement see HRW, 2005:

[2] Eur. Com. 2004:

[3] Eur. Com. 2005:

[4] for a detailed analyzes see ICG, 2003: Radical Islam in Central Asia: Responding to HuT ICG Asia

Report, No. 58 and Uzbekistan’s Reform Program: Illusion or Reality ? Asia Report, No. 46

[5] Halbach, 2002:1

[6] Naumkin, 2003: 3 and 4

[7] ICG, 2006:

[8] Quoted in Lewis, 1961: 323

[9] Ibid: 328

[10] Berkes, 1964: 9

[11] Kirisce, 1997: 6

[12] Mango, 1999: 404

[13] Abou Zahab & Roy, 2002: 5-8

[14] Roy, 2002:

[15] Abou Zahab & Roy, 2002: 6, 11-12

[16] from the Arabic word Salaf which means ancestor

[17] Roy, 2002:

[18] Coll, 2005:

[19] Abou Zahab & Roy, 2002: 6

[20] Baran, 2004: 16

[21] Haqqani, 2004: 34

[22] Isby, 2003: 9; ALJ; 2005:

[23] for a detailed analyses of the decline of the Islamic world see Bernhard Lewis, 2001: “What Went Wrong: Western Impact and Middle Eastern Response”

[24] ALJ., 2005:

[25] An-Nabhani, 2001: 4

[26] Ibid: 5 and 12; see also leaflet in Verfassungsschutzbericht/English, 2004, Extremist Foreigners III. 1.4.3

[27] Taji-Farouki, 1996: 11

[28] An-Nabhani, 2001: 6

[29] Taji-Farouki, 1996: 27-28 for the movement sometime confusing attitude towards violence see below IV

[30] Baran, 2004: 34

[31] Parashar, 2005

[32] Baran, 2004: 34; Verfassungsschutzbericht/English, 2004, Extremist Foreigners III. 1.4.3

[33] BBC, 2005:

[34] Halbach, 2002:29-30

[35] Haqqani, 2004: 34-35

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Islamic Movements in Uzbekistan: Who is Hizb-ut-Tahrir?
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Franco Burgio (Author), 2006, Islamic Movements in Uzbekistan: Who is Hizb-ut-Tahrir?, Munich, GRIN Verlag,


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