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Sunday, 15 September, 2002, 22:28 GMT 23:28 UK
Muslims debate 'clash of civilisations'
Usama Matar, a member of Hizb ut-Tahrir from Palestine, recites from the Koran
Organisers said it was the largest gathering of Muslims since 11 September 2001
About 8,500 people gathered in London on Sunday to debate the role of Muslims in the West since the declaration of the "war on terror".

Muslims have been asked to make a choice. Either they accept capitalism and its colonialist world view or be labelled the terrorist

Hizb ut-Tahrir pre-conference statement
The conference organiser - the Muslim political party Hizb ut-Tahrir - claimed it was the largest meeting of Muslims since the attacks in the US of 11 September last year.

The group called the conference Beyond September 11: Role of Muslims in the West, and said it would address the clash between Islam and the West.

Speakers from both Islamic and secular countries around the world also debated a possible attack on Iraq.

Other Muslim organisations, however, declined to attend the gathering at the London Arena in Docklands and accused Hizb ut-Tahrir of undemocratic and isolationist tendencies.

Dr Imran Waheed, a UK doctor and representative of Hizb ut-Tahrir, said while the West preached tolerance, in practise it sought to suffocate Islam.

"When the West calls for integration it is asking Muslims to abandon Muslim values and adopt Western values," Dr Waheed told Sky News.

'No regime change'

"Integration means adopting Western secular values in lieu of Islamic values - values which are from a foreign and different ideology to Islam."

Dr Waheed later explained why his organisation does not support an attack on Iraq or the US ambition of "regime change":

"Are people happy to send their children off to a far-off country to increase the dividends of far-off multinationals?

"Saddam Hussein is a tyrant and many of our members have been tortured in his jails for opposing him.

"But we don't want an Iraqi version of [Afghan leader] Hamid Karzai, a subservient and loyal puppet who will facilitate the harvesting of America's interests from the region, including the vast oil reserves of the Middle East."

'Undemocratic'

But Inayat Bungalawala - of the Muslim Council of Britain - said Dr Waheed's organisation was itself intolerant and isolationist.

"It is important for us to participate in all levels of democracy in the United Kingdom and we believe in participation and integration," he said.

'Mainstream'

Dr Waheed insists his party - founded in Jerusalem in 1953 by the scholar Taqiuddin an-Nabhani - is part of the Muslim mainstream.

On its website, Hizb ut-Tahrir says it would like to see the creation of a new caliphate - a state ruled by a Khaleefah or successor to Islamic Prophet Muhammad - under Sharia law.

But Hizb ut-Tahrir considers violence and armed struggle to be a violation of Islamic law.

Last month 26 of its members, including three Britons, were charged in Egypt with belonging to an illegal organization, four months after they were arrested.

Dr Waheed alleges that they have been tortured.

See also:

11 Sep 02 | Americas
09 Sep 02 | Entertainment
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