Organisers defend Muslim conference
James Cusick is political correspondent of The Independent and The Independent on Sunday. As an experienced member of the lobby, he has previously worked at The Sunday Times and the BBC. His career as a journalist has been split between print and television, including senior positions as producer with Sir David Frost and at BBC Newsnight. He is also an award-winning golf and travel writer, working for over a decade as the UK contributing editor for one of the USA’s leading golf magazines. He broadcasts regularly for the BBC and CNN. He lives in London.
Thursday 04 August 1994
The conference, the largest of its kind in the West, is being organised by the Muslim Unity Organisation. However, most senior figures controlling the conference, and most invited speakers, are members of an organisation called Hizb ut Tahir, dedicated to he 'liberation' of Islam from the 52 nation states of the world.
Hizb ut Tahir, whose British branch was formed five years ago, is banned in some Middle East and Islamic countries. However, the organisers said their group's international activities, which had led to imprisonment of leading figures, were unjust.
The International Muslim Khilafah, as the conference is called, will discuss the establishment of a single Islamic state, to be headed by a khalif - a successor of Mohamed. The last Khilafah ended in 1924.
One Islamic academic said the idea was regarded as 'political fringe lunacy' by most of Britain's 1.5 million Muslims.
Since 1924, Hizb ut Tahir has believed that unity of the Islamic world has fragmented into 'illegitimate nation states'. The group's leaflets circulating in British universities, quoting the prophet Mohamed, openly state judgement will not come until 'the believers fight the Jews and kill them.'
The extremist language has alarmed British Jews. In the wake of last week's bombings, Brent council - whose borough includes Wembley - called on the Home Secretary to ban the conference. However the Home Office says it has no power to do so. Scotland Yard has said that if speakers were seen to incite racial violence, there would be individual arrests.
The conference's own literature calls for a 'determination to rid this earth of non-Islam and return to the Islamic way of life.' Another of Sunday's main speakers, addressing a preview of the conference last night, denied the conference would be racist.
Although one speaker indicated that Muslims in Lebanon had the right to hit back at 'legitimate Israeli targets', all the main speakers said that the Israeli embassy in London did not constitute a legitimate target.
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