More than a thousand bearded men, muffled in scarves and accompanied by veiled women, stand under the hot sun, waving black and white flags and chanting "Allahu Akbar!" (God is Greatest).
This is not a scene from the Middle East or Central Asia but a rally of the supporters of the Islamist Hizb ut-Tahrir (Party of Freedom) in Simferopol -- the capital of the Ukrainian Black Sea region of Crimea.
Hizb ut-Tahrir seeks to re-establish a Caliphate -- a pan-Islamic state based on Islamic rule like in the medieval era -- across the Middle East and Central Asia.
Banned in several states, it is now showing surprising strength in Crimea, a balmy seaside holiday resort region which has its own substantial Muslim Tatar minority.
The head of the information office of Hizb ut-Tahrir in Ukraine, Fazyl Amzaev, told AFP that the party's ambition of reviving the Caliphate does not extend to Ukraine and its presence is educational.
"Our work in Ukraine does not mean that we act or will act to change the borders of the state," Amzaev said.
"Achieving the goal of establishing the Caliphate is real only in countries with a predominantly Muslim population. But in Ukraine, we, as Muslims, are obliged to inform the society about Islam in its correct form."
The first devotees of Hizb ut-Tahrir appeared in the Crimea in the early 1990s. Twelve percent, or 250,000 of the nearly two million inhabitants of Crimea are Sunni Muslim Crimean Tatars.
Now they number between 2,000 and 15,000 -- Hizb ut-Tahrir does not disclose the true number, claiming only a permanent climb in supporters.
"The world is a big village, and everywhere there is a struggle against Islam in favor of liberal-democratic values," Amzaev said, calling on Ukrainian Muslims not to assimilate but to keep their values.
"The Caliphate is not a threat, but on the contrary is the salvation for mankind amid a crisis of capitalism, democracy and liberal values in general."
Hizb ut-Tahrir al-Islami, established in 1953 in East Jerusalem, has been banned in Russia and several Central Asian countries. It is also outlawed in Germany due to anti-Semitism and anti-Israeli propaganda.
The Spiritual Board of Muslims of Crimea – the main umbrella group for Muslims in the region – has already called on the authorities to take a closer look at the group's work in Ukraine.
READ FULL SOURCE ARTICLE: 07/29/2013
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