Longing for the caliphate while living in the state: an agent-structure analysis of the appeal of Hizb ut-Tahrir to Muslims in the West
Document TypePhD thesis
Access StatusOpen Access
© 2018 Dr. Elisa Orofino
This project investigates the appeal of the group Hizb ut-Tahrir, primarily focusing on its Australian and British branches, and serves as a contribution to recent scholarly debates on why non-violent (vocal) radical forms of Islam still attract segments of Muslim communities in the West. This thesis places emphasis on a topic still neglected by the current literature: vocal and radical Islamists. Such groups advocate for the caliphate and for the implementation of shari’a but also reject violence as a tool to achieve these goals. This thesis questions the common opinion that terrorism stands out as the final manifestation of the multi-faceted process of radicalisation. This account of Hizb ut-Tahrir points out how an Islamist group can remain vocal and radical for over six decades, while continuing to expand around the world, recruiting new members and impacting the ideology of new groups. Unfolding the discourse through the structure/agent debate, this project uncovers the dual nature of Hizb ut-Tahrir, acting both as an agent (vis-a-vis the national political authorities and its competitors) and as a structure for its members, providing a specific system of values and a group identity, which not only assures the group new recruits in the contemporary Western context but also long-term memberships. Employing methods of semi-structured interviews, participant observation, and thematic analysis, this project uncovers the specific elements of Hizb ut-Tahrir that make it appealing for some segments of Muslim communities in the West. In particular, this project identifies four main factors that make Hizb ut-Tahrir appealing to some segments of Muslim communities in the West: Hizb ut-Tahrir’s evolution into a transnational organisation, Hizb ut-Tahrir’s ideological premises used to challenge the West at thepolitical and social level, a set of Hizb ut-Tahrir’s unique features that make the group different from the plethora of Islamic revivalist groups advocating for the caliphate today, and Hizb ut-Tahrir’s role as a structure creating a strong system of meanings and identities for its members. Studying the main ideological tenets of vocal radicals like Hizb ut-Tahrir fosters a deeper understanding of both intellectual and violent forms of Islamic activism in the West, since they share the same ideological tenets but give voice to their claims in very different ways. Without denying that radicalization is the basis for any sort of violent ideological expression, this thesis argues that radicalisation and terrorism are not alwaysnecessarily intertwined.
KeywordsIslamic Studies; sociology; Hizb ut-Tahrir; caliphate; radicalization; organizations; Islamism
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