British religious clerics accuse media of distorting situation in Afghanistan

British imams who recently visited Afghanistan said this week that the mainstream media has distorted the situation in Afghanistan and that the Taliban has not imposed a ban on girls’ education but has only issued a temporary suspension.

The delegation visited the country last month and held multiple meetings with senior Taliban officials.

In a discussion at Queen Mary University this week, Sheikh Hamd Mahmood said that girls’ education had not been banned per se, but rather “liberal, secular education had been suspended.”

Sheikh Haitham Al-Haddad said in the discussion that the issue was being used by the West to demonize Afghanistan. He said that in any society emerging from war, there is a hierarchy of needs and security and the economy comes first.

The imams stated that the education system in Afghanistan has been influenced by the Western system of knowledge and sees it as Western colonialism.

Comments made by the clerics meanwhile sparked an outcry on social media with critics stating it was a “shameful” attempt to “whitewash” the Taliban’s actions and “lobby” for the Taliban government.

“These are wild extremists and terrorist supporters,” said a social media user.

Women’s rights activists were also angry about the visit and the clerics’ comments. In a petition on a Change website article, activists said: “British religious scholars, mainly from India, Pakistan, and the Arab world,” are attempting to “whitewash the oppressive actions” of the Taliban.

The activists asserted that all the Taliban officials who met with the British Muslim clerics in Kabul are involved in “widespread violence” in Afghanistan and are “subject to United Nations sanctions.”

Ahmad Zia Takal, the deputy spokesperson for the Taliban’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs posted on his social media account that the Taliban’s acting foreign minister Amir Khan Muttaqi had discussed the possible “positive changes after the complete rule of the Islamic Emirate (Taliban)” with the “scholars from Britain.”

According to Takal, Muttaqi also asked the clerics to “convey the true image of Afghanistan to the world and their people.”

The Taliban has implemented significant restrictions on women and girls after regaining power in August 2021. It banned girls from secondary schools as well as prohibited women from getting higher education – rendering Afghanistan the only country in the world where women and girls are banned from school, above Grade 6, and university.