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U.K.: Banned Islamist Group Hizb ut-Tahrir Rejects Blair's 'Draconian Measures'

British Prime Minister Tony Blair announced tougher measures today --> /featuresarticle/2005/8/C791579D-4087-45F6-B097-E8CCCA7D398D.html to combat terrorism following the attacks in London in July. Blair specifically named the Islamic group Hizb ut-Tahrir as being among the groups whose activities would be banned under the new regulations. RFE/RL contacted Hizb ut-Tahrir's spokesman in London, Imran Waheed, to get his response to Blair's announcement.

Prague, 5 August 2005 (RFE/RL) -- The British prime minister explicitly mentioned Hizb ut-Tahrir during his speech.

"We will proscribe Hizb ut-Tahrir and the successor organization of al-Muhajirun," Blair said. "We will also examine the grounds of proscription to widen them and put forward proposals in the new legislation."

Waheed rejected the inclusion of his group on the list of organizations that would be banned, saying the decision was extreme.

"We completely condemn [Blair's] decision to ban Hizb ut-Tahrir," Waheed said. "These are draconian measures which expose the fanaticism of this government in suppressing legitimate political voices in the Muslim community."

Waheed argued that his group disavows the use of violence and that Blair's decision to ban Hizb ut-Tahrir puts the British prime minister in the dubious company of despotic leaders in Asia.

"Hizb ut-Tahrir has a 50-year-long history of nonviolent political struggle against the most evil dictators and tyrants in the Muslim world," Waheed said. "This ban really will, basically, cause these people to suppress the Islamic political opposition in their countries even more and, very much, we feel that Blair has placed himself on the level of the likes of Karimov in Uzbekistan or Musharraf in Pakistan who do not tolerate any political dissent whatsoever."

Waheed noted that Hizb ut-Tahrir was quick to denounce the London bombings now being used as a reason for banning the group.

"We took a very clear position that the London bombings were not justified," Waheed said. "We issued a very clear denunciation of the London bombings, so it is very amazing that he seeks these measures now against a nonviolent political party."

Hizb ut-Tahrir was founded by Palestinian refugees at Al-Quds University in the 1950s. The group has spread but many countries, particularly in Central Asia, have banned its activities.

See also: U.K.: Blair Details New Plans To Tackle Extremists

Central Asia: How Big A Threat Is Hizb ut-Tahrir?