Hizb ut-Tahrir in Denmark gathered Sunday for the movement's six-hour annual conference. The conference caused calls from politicians to ban the movement, mainly from the Danish Social Liberal Party (Radikale) and the Danish People's Party.
Fadi Addullatif, the movement's spokesperson, said in response that Denmark is becoming a dictatorship, just like those Denmark criticizes in the Middle East. He said such developments blur the difference between the dictatorships and the European governments. However, he is not worried about Hizb ut-Tahrir's future, calling the calls to ban the movement election propaganda. Danish attorney general Henning Fode had said in 2004 that there was no judicial basis to ban the organization.
Justice Minister Lene Espersen had said several months ago that it might be time to review the question, if there was proof that the organization was acting violently. This was after Abdullatif was sentenced to 60 days in prison for inciting against Jews ('kill them all, wherever you find them') and threatening the life of PM Anders Fogh Rasmussen.
Last year's conference called on members to join a holy war and sought Muslim leaders who reached for the sword and not for words.
Simon Emil Ammitzbøll, of the Social Liberal Party party, said it is time to stop prosecuting members of the organization individually, as there is enough evidence that the organization calls for violence and incites hatred against Jews.
Fadi Abdullatif said that the conference was only peaceful debate and explanation about Hizb ut-Tahrir's declared goal to establish an Islamic Caliphate. There are many myths about he Caliphate and it is therefore important to explain more about it. He said many people think it is a theocracy, but it is far from it. He expected a large portion of the country's Muslims to take part, including several Copenhagen imams.
Regarding cooperation with other Muslim organizations, Abdullatif said that there have been several preliminary meetings and concrete issues have been discussed on how to improve Muslim's social, cultural and identity problems, but there haven't been concrete initiatives. A series of big debate-meetings are scheduled for the fall.
About 1000-1500 men, women and children showed up for Sunday's conference, most of immigrant background. Most women wore face-covering veils but the men mostly just wore darker colors and the teenagers wore the usual Danish clothing.
A quick check by Berlingske Tidende showed that most people were not members of the party, but rather supporters to various degrees.
The meeting started with greetings from the organization's leader, Ata Abu Rashta, who urged his followers to follow Muhammad's example, but also brought up Saladin, who conquered Jerusalem from the European crusaders. Those present were urged to fight the current "Jewish state". However, he did not go on with more detailed threats against Jewish citizens. He finished by urging his follower to fight to establish the Caliphate.
One of the youngest present was Mahshaf Zmir, a 15 year old student of the Pakistani Jinna International School. He told Berlingske Tidende that he was not a member, but he agrees with Hizb ut-Tahrir's opinions and thinks that many young Danish Muslims do so as well. He is now interested in becoming a member.
Photographer Jacob Holdt, who has followed Hizb ut-Tahrir trying to start a dialog with them, said he often succeeds, but not in such big conferences. If you invite them home for coffee, they are really so sweet, he said, but these conferences remind him of Christian revivalist meetings (such as the Danish Inner Mission) who dream of heaven and cry over injustice. Holdt said the battle-cry "Allah is greatest" could be confused with the "Red Front!" but that it was easy to see that this belonged to a very marginalized group in society. He doesn't think that the organization is in a position of much influence.
Journalists were not welcome at the conference.
Sources: Berlingske Tidende 1, 2 (Danish), Politiken (Danish), Copenhagen Post (English)
See also: Copenhagen: Imams cooperating with Hizb ut-Tahrir