Farid Kassim (Qasim) was born in Syria. He fled from his homeland with his family after Syria’s then-president, Hafez al-Assad, carried out a severe crackdown against members of the Muslim Brotherhood in 1980. Kassim resettled first in Saudi Arabia and then in the United Kingdom, where he was educated at the highly acclaimed Furzedown grammar school in Battersea, England.
Kassim’s family — most notably his maternal grandfather — developed close ties to the Labour Party in England. This family legacy had a significant influence on Farid Kassim, who became a member of the Labour Party when he was just 16. Reflecting later upon that time period, Kassim said during a June 2004 interview: “I sincerely thought that I could make a difference within the Labour Party … believing that society could be alleviated by greater distribution of wealth.”
After joining the Labour Party, Kassim adopted an increasingly Marxist ideology that was strongly opposed to the values of capitalist society. He also became an atheist and an activist in the Socialist Workers’ Party.
By the end of 1980, Kassim was enrolled at the University of Nottingham, where his life and spiritual evolution would take a major turn. “I was a student at Nottingham University,” he recounted in a June 2004 interview, “and I embraced Islam there, from [under the influence of] a member of Hizb-ut-Tahrir [HT],” an organization that supports worldwide Islamic jihad and the establishment of an Islamic caliphate. Though HT was relatively unknown in the UK at that time, Kassim got to know a small group of foreign-born Nottingham University students hailing from various Middle Eastern countries, and those students were primarily responsible for his conversion to Islam. As Kassim would later recall in a May 2004 interview: “Before I embraced Islam I was an agnostic, I thought of myself as a Communist…. [One member of HT] approached me in a very puristic way, in terms of the Aqeedah [doctrine] of Islam. He really opened my eyes, showing me how you should think, not in terms of thinking logically or scientifically, but thinking rationally. So after a lot of discussion, I embraced Islam…. It gave my life meaning.” In the same interview, Kassim elaborated: “When I first started with Hizb-ut-Tahrir I felt excited, it brings light to you, which you want to bring to the Ummah [Muslim community].” Whereas Kassim’s previous involvement in left-wing politics had been somewhat unsatisfying because of its focus on material goals that did not interest him, the religious emphasis of HT brought him a much greater degree of fulfillment.
In 1986 Kassim himself became HT’s first Deputy Leader and Spokesperson in the United Kingdom.
Though Iraqi President Saddam Hussein repressed HT members in Iraq, Kassim supported Saddam’s 1990 invasion and attempted annexation of Kuwait. Explaining that such an act of unifying “Islamic lands” was a positive development, Kassim stated: “From the Islam point of view, it is correct that any border [like the one between Iraq and Kuwait] should be removed, we [Muslims] are described in the Koran as one nation. The borders were not put there by Muslims, but by Europeans.”
In 1994, Kassim gave two particularly noteworthy speeches titled “Peace with Israel: A Crime Against Islam,” and “Battlefield: The Only Place for Muslims and Jews.” “There are 121 verses in the Koran about fighting and killing,” he boasted on one occasion. “Ours is not a passive religion.” In another instance, Kassim stated: “I won’t let you film this talk because the Jews … control the media.”
In 1995, Kassim said of HT’s guiding principles: “We believe Islam represents panacea for British society. We believe Islam represents an ideological solution as capitalism regreses and slowly cracks up. We believe that Islam will produce the ideal ideological solution for human problems, and we portray that strongly and forcibly wherever we can.”
Noting that military action sits at the core of HT’s ideology and modus operandi, Kassim in 1995 articulated his support for Islamic military coups, analogizing them to “Caesarian sections”: “If there are obstacles to a natural birth, then it requires a Caesarian. And the Caesarian section is, we believe, the people who are the surgeons in society, who have the material power in society, is the army and the military. So there’s a special concentration of Hizb-ut-Tahrir’s activities in the Muslim armies of our countries…. There have been many [HT] attempts [at coups] in Turkey and Iraq and Syria at overturning the system. Very close. But you know victory is in God’s hands.”
On August 18, 1995, The Jewish Chronicle quoted Kassim as having recently doubted the historical reality of the Nazi Holocaust by saying: “[I am] not satisfied intellectually that six million people were killed by the Nazis. Many people cast doubt about it. There are real things happening to humanity today and this only allegedly happened 50 years ago.”
In a separate 1995 dialogue, Kassim and his interviewer had the following exchange vis-a-vis the Holocaust:
Interviewer: “Didn’t the Holocaust happen in the Second World War?”
Kassim: “I wasn’t there.”
Interviewer: “Whar’s your opinion about it, then?”
Kassim: “Hizb-ut-Tahtrir have no adoption [sic] on the Holocaust.”
Interviewer: “But you have, at meetings, on record, it’s on record … [you] have raised questions about it.”
Kassim: “Hizb-ut-Tahririr has no opinion about a Holocaust.”
Interviewer: “Do you yourself have an opinion about the Holocaust?”
Kassim: “I have an opinion about lots of things…. My capacity today is as a member, as a spokesman of Hizb-ut-Tahrir. Hizb-ut-Tahrir have no adoption [sic] on the Holocaust.”
Interviewer: “But you youserself are on record, at a meeting in Sheffield, of saying that you are unconvinced about the historical evidence of the Holocaust. Is that your opinion?”
Kassim: “Hizb-ut-Tahtrir have no opinion about the Holocaust.
In a February 2010 article in The New Statesman, Ed Husain, author of the 2007 book The Islamist and co-director of the Quilliam Foundation, wrote: “You can call activists such as Kassim ‘Muslim Trotskyites’. They believe that ‘democracy is hypocrisy’ and [that] the ‘man-made ruling system’ must be overthrown as a matter of religious duty. Their primary concern – as with their violent offshoots – is to create an ‘Islamic state’ in an Arab country, supported by a nuclear-armed Pakistan, under the rule of their caliph, in which their particular interpretation of sharia law will become state law.”