(AP) JAKARTA, Indonesia — The chanting crowd at the radical Muslim protest in Indonesia stood out for its normalcy: smartly dressed businessmen, engineers, lawyers, smiling mothers, scampering children.
At a time when al-Qaida seems to be faltering, the recruitment of such an educated, somewhat mainstream following is raising fears that Hizbut Tahrir, an enigmatic global movement, could prove more effective at radicalizing the Islamic world than outright terrorist groups.
Active in 45 countries, Hizbut is now expanding in Asia, spreading its radical message from Indonesia to China. It wants to unite all Muslim countries in a globe-spanning bloc ruled by strict sharia law. It targets university students and professionals, working within countries to try to persuade people to overthrow their governments.
The movement’s appeal to an often influential part of society worries experts. Its goal of an Islamic state may be far-fetched, but it could still undercut efforts to control extremism and develop democracy in countries such as Indonesia, which the U.S. hopes will be a vital regional partner and a global model for moderate Islam.