I married an extremist: My life with Hizb-ut-Tahrir

What would you do if you came to realise that the group your spouse was part of was one that undermined liberal democracy? And wanted to establish an Islamic state? Borealis talks to a Canadian who found herself in this situation and what she decided to do.

In this podcast, retired Canadian intelligence analyst Phil Gurski discusses the subject of terrorism: what it is (and isn’t), trends, developments and more. Author of five books on terrorism, Phil is not shy to wade into controversial matters and provide his perspective honed from more than three decades in intelligence.


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Share your thoughts and comments below
Phil Gurski

3 thoughts on “I married an extremist: My life with Hizb-ut-Tahrir

  1. Hello Phil
    Thank you for posting this interview. It is not often we hear a person themselves describe how they became radicalized – and more particularly, their own life, beliefs and needs leading up to becoming radicalized – all of which provide the foundation for radicalization to occur by making them vulnerable.
    These first hand accounts are invaluable. Of course we must be alert to self-justification and self-deception when people describe their own lives, but it is usually possible to separate the wheat from the chaff. And the trajectory of your interlocutor is fairly familiar.
    I hope you might do another longer interview with this lady and explore some more of her life story prior to HuT but also what led her to leave.
    Two other points.
    HuT has remained un-proscribed in many Western countries (Canada, Australia, New Zealand) because it is “assessed” not to explicitly advocate political or ideological violence at this time (though it does consider violence as a legitimate tactic when the time is right). In my experience, most of the “assessors” have not read any of HuT’s doctrinal material and these assessors are driven by political considerations rather than honest analysis based on an examination of the primary texts and sources.
    And such judgments also depend on what one means by “advocate”.
    HuT are, to use a translation of a French word, “apologists” for politically motivated violence. They glorify it, justify it, by saying it is “understandable” and lionize the perpetrators.
    I have read all their official doctrinal material that is available in English. As your interviewee says, they promote an anti-democratic ideology and want to create a caliphate, attract people to travel it, as a religious duty (hijrah) and from there launch attacks on other countries and ultimately taken them over. This is the “prophetic methodology” they talk about. And it is the same strategy the Islamic State was pursuing – and it said it was. There is little difference in ideology and strategy between HuT and IS – the difference is tactics. In many respects, HuT is the vanguard of Salafi-jihadism. [Where have we heard “vanguard” in this context before?]
    HuT work to spread discontent with the political system of their host country, and so, to use an old fashioned word, are seditious. HuT is not so much a “conveyor belt” as your interviewee says, but a “colander”. People engage with the group usually via its meetings or street da’wa and other ideological events – it is agitprop, to use another old fashioned idea – and those that become true believers fall through the holes to the next level. They meetings are filtering exercises, enabling recruiters, usually of more explicitly violent groups to identify possible candidates. There are many cases of people who ended up committing acts of politically motivated violence entering the salafi-jihadi milieu through contact with HuT. But it was just one entry point.
    This tactic is hardly surprising: the founder of HuT, al-Nabhani, was much influenced by Leninist organizing tactics and doctrine: agitprop, entryism, small cells, central leadership and a high degree of collectivism and plausible deniability – and trading on linguistic ambiguity.
    The second point is that the vulnerabilities your guest described are ones that recruiters seek to identify and then exploit. That is why they do so much in school and universities: young people who are often unsure and searching. And it is the same strategy used by intelligence services when recruiting assets. The Soviets preyed on students at universities; and the Russians and Chinese still do. There are so many similarities between the dynamics of terrorism and that of espionage and foreign interference.
    Thanks for reading. Great interview.

    1. Thanks again! All very good points – I like the ‘colander’ analogy and may steal it if I may. I agree HuT is a highly underappreciated threat

    2. Hi, you’re exactly right about HT. Working on people’s way of thinking and manipulating conversations is something constantly being implemented. They look at the communist strategies for spreading ideas as well and usually end up at rallies along side each other. I have done more in depth interviews about my experience. I’ll put links in my profile. Thanks for the comment and encouragement. I’m constantly asking myself if I should be doing this.

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