Today in London radical history: OutRage! demo opposes Assembly for Islam, Hyde Park, 1995.

On August 13th 1995, gay campaigning group OutRage demonstrated at Trafalgar Square, opposing the Hizb ut-Tahrir Rally for Islam.

Hizb ut-Tahrir (Arabic: حزب التحرير‎‎ Ḥizb at-TaḥrīrParty of Liberation) is an international, pan-Islamic political organisation, which describes its “ideology as Islam”, and its aim as the re-establishment of “the Islamic Khilafah (Caliphate)” or Islamic state. In 1995 Hizb-ut-Tahrir was at the forefront of public Islamic fundamentalism, (though this was before the current war on terror really got going, so other forces have achieved higher profiles since then).
Hizb ut-Tahrir Britain was led by Syrian-born Omar Bakri Muhammad from 1986 to 1996. The party first recruited from among Muslims who came from countries where the party was banned and were temporary residents of the UK, but in 1993 expanded its targets for recruitment to include second generation Muslim immigrants.

Many activists who passed through Hizb-ut Tahrir in various countries went on to harder things – a number of prominent al-Qaeda members were former members. The party is generally seen as “entry-level Islamism” – a kind of introductory forum which draws people into fundamentalism, and can lead them on to more active violent arenas; however it scrupulously preserves its legality, obeying the law in countries it is active in to keep its legal status.

However, by the mid-1990s, Hizb was “a fixture on university campuses, organising societies and debates”, known for its “fierce” rhetoric, young audiences, and aloofness from other Muslim organizations or initiatives. It also reportedly engaged in vigilantism against non Muslims and secular Muslim women, “prowling London, fighting Indian Sikhs in the west and African Christians in the east”, and pressuring Muslim women to wear the hijab.

Groups like Al-Muhajiroun, which effectively splintered off from Hizb-ut Tahrir, have taken a more pro-active part in encouraging muslims to sign up for jihadist activities.

Hizb ut-Tahrir staged a major rally in Trafalgar Square on 13th August with the aim of offering Islam to non-Muslims. The rally was described as “an American-style evangelical extravaganza with the group claiming to have a list of almost one hundred people who will publicly announce their conversion to Islam”. A leaflet announcing the rally proclaimed, “Last year the International Muslim Khilafah Conference rocked the world; this year, the voice of Islam will shake the very foundations of Western civilization… Reject the evils of freedom and democracy, the pillars of the west! Support Islam… the Supreme Ideology”. Posters advertising the rally were in evidence in many parts of London and other cities.

The rally itself was sparsely covered in the press with more attention being given to the counter protests by Outrage! and the Jewish Socialists’ Group. OutRage were protesting against Hizb ut-Tahrir’s violent condemnation of homosexuality.

OutRage had previously picketed the international Islamic fundamentalist conference held at Wembley Arena, London, on 7th August 1994, organized by Hizb-ut-Tahrir. OutRage! members Peter Tatchell and Glenn Halton, had been arrested during the peaceful protest against the murder of an estimated 4,000 lesbians and gay men since 1980 by the Islamic fundamentalist regime in Iran — most of the victims being beheaded, stoned and burned to death. During this protest, Muslim fundamentalists threatened to kill members of OutRage!. ‘We will find you and kill you’, they said. The police took no action against them.

Its worth checking out OutRage! An Oral History


An entry in the 2016 London Rebel History Calendar – check it out online

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