Wednesday, July 08, 2009

Support for Hizb ut-Tahrir America May Be Surprising by Madeleine Gruen

After close to twenty years of activity in the United States, Hizb ut-Tahrir America (HTA) entered the public stage in June 2009; transitioning into the second phase of the implementation of its strategy to establish a Caliphate. Over the past few months, and particularly in the last few weeks, I have posted updates for Counterterrorism Blog readers on the maturation of HTA and its plans to host a conference titled "The Fall of Capitalism and the Rise of Islam," which is scheduled for July 19 at the Hilton in Oak Lawn, Illinois. In response to my articles, I have noticed speculation on the prospective turnout to the event. It is certainly important to wonder the exact size of a group that opposes the United States and its policies, however, until the day of the conference, it will be difficult to determine how large a support base HTA has, or whether its American adherents will be willing to demonstrate their affiliation publicly by attending the conference.

There are some small but visible signs of prospective attendance. In the last two weeks, three Facebook pages have been created to promote HTA's Khilafah Conference. More than 100 of those invited on the Facebook pages have indicated that they may attend, and approximately 40 have confirmed that they will definitely attend.

The Facebook page with the largest number of invitees to the conference (more than 1000) is administered by Abdur Rafay. Rafay belongs to the "Rosalind Franklin University of Medicine & Science Grad Student '12" and the "N. Illinois Alum '06" networks on Facebook. The second Khilafah Conference page is administered by Meenara Jamal Khan, who is part of the "Chicago" network on Facebook. The third page, and the least popular of the three, is administered by someone who uses the name Kalifat Hamza.

If conferences held by young branches of HT in other countries are any indication of prospective turnout in Oak Lawn, the attendance for HTA's first publicly promoted conference will be relatively small. Also, as the United States is a large country, HTA's membership is scattered from coast to coast, and some may find it difficult to travel to Chicago for a one-day conference. Chicago appears to be the most active chapter of HTA, however, even some members and supporters in the immediate area may be reluctant to appear in person at an event that would publicly reveal their affiliation.

Older, well-established branches of HT, such as Hizb ut-Tahrir Britain, attract several hundred attendees to most of their events. Generally speaking, however, most branches in western democracies do not attract as many supporters to rallies and conferences. By contract, the Indonesian branch of HT held its Khilafah conference in a sports stadium in August 2007. The conference was attended by tens of thousands of members and supporters. Smaller branches are able to fill a large hotel conference room. In HTA's case, it anticipates hosting enough attendees to fill the Grand Ballroom of the Hilton Oak Lawn.

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