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Extremist Islamic Conference Shut Down

CBS News consultant Hoda Osman wrote this story for

A conference organized by an extremist Islamic group in Illinois and promoted under the theme "fall of capitalism and rise of Islam" was canceled by the school where the event was going to take place.

The non-profit Islamic school Al Aqsa said it was misled about the real nature of the event organized by a group called Hizb ut-Tahrir America.

The school's business manager Rana Jaber said the school sent the group a letter Wednesday advising it of the decision to cancel the event and enclosed a check refunding their deposit.

Hizb ut-Tahrir is a global organization with branches in several countries, including the U.K. Its pronounced goals include the establishment of an Islamic state, or caliphate, governed by Islamic law. The group claims however that branches operating in Western countries do not "work to change the system of government, but to project a positive image of Islam to Western society."

CBS News' national security advisor Juan Carlos Zatare still believes the group's activities are a cause for concern. He describes the global Hizb ut-Tahrir as "an extremist group that has served as a platform not just for dissemination of extremist ideology, but also as a platform for individuals to engage in terrorist activities."

Zatare does not have information about the group's U.S. branch, but is familiar with Hizb ut-Tahrir in the U.K. and globally. "There have been so many problems about its membership as well as activities in the U.K. that I would suggest that a group forming in the U.S. is extremely worrisome," he notes.

Jaber, who is in charge of booking Al Aqsa school's premises for outside events, said two men approached the school around two months ago about holding one-day bazaar-type event at the school in July, which would involve selling traditional food and clothes.

The conference is entitled "Khilafah 2009," in reference to the Islamic caliphate. As promoted on the website created by the group, it won't involve the sale of any products. Information posted on the website indicates the discussion was going to revolve around criticizing capitalism and promoting an Islamic economic system as an alternative. Lecture titles include, "Capitalism Doomed to Fail," "Life Under the Islamic Economic System" and "Role of Muslims in America."

"They misrepresented themselves and the event. We don't want to be in the middle of something like that," said Jaber.

Conference speakers are not identified and the website does not provide contact information for the group in the U.S. Admission was going to be free and included lunch and even babysitting, according to the website.

The U.K's branch of Hizb ut-Tahiri is also planning to hold a conference in London and Bermingham in July and August respectively under the title "The Struggle for Islam and the Call for Khilafah."

By Hoda Osman

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