British Muslim clerics who embarked on a so-called ‚fact-finding‘ mission to Afghanistan have praised the ‚beautiful‘ Taliban leaders for instilling freedom in the country following their rise to power amid the US pullout in August 2021. 

The imams travelled to Afghanistan last summer as part of a trip organised by Prosper Afghanistan, a UK-based NGO that seeks to support rebuilding initiatives, and the Human Aid & Advocacy group.

The all-male delegation spent eight days touring Afghanistan and meeting with Taliban leaders, making statements on Afghan TV extolling their virtues, before returning to Britain to continue their praise of the Taliban at an event held at Queen Mary University of London (QMUL).

Muslim outlet 5pillars reported the trip aimed to ‚dispel myths‘ about Afghanistan following the Western media’s ‚complete distortion of reality‘ in the country. 

A member of the group, Mufti Ismail Satia, told the 250-person-strong crowd at QMUL: ‚We went to Afghanistan with a very open mind… it brought back to me the stories of the Sahaba (companions of Prophet Muhammad) that we read. 

‚They reminded me of those who sacrificed for Islam and those who were willing to do anything for Islam.‘

Shaykh Haitham Al-Haddad meanwhile defended the Taliban’s restriction of girls‘ education, claiming that any criticism of the move is nothing more than Western propaganda to demonise the hardline Islamists. 

‚Western secular influences were being driven into the minds of the students who were speaking against the Shariah and many vices were creeping in… when it is time to rebuild the country we cannot tolerate division and therefore temporary suspension of liberal, secular education took place.‘

The imams travelled to Afghanistan last summer as part of a trip organised by Prosper Afghanistan, a UK-based NGO that seeks to support rebuilding initiatives, and the Human Aid & Advocacy group

Muslim outlet 5pillars reported the trip aimed to ‚dispel myths‘ about Afghanistan following the Western media’s ‚complete distortion of reality‘ in the country

Armed Taliban security personnel ride a vehicle convoy as they parade near the US embassy in Kabul on August 15, 2023, during the second anniversary celebrations of their takeover

The trip organised in July 2023 came weeks before the Taliban celebrated the second anniversary of their return to power and the takeover of Kabul.

Taliban leaders point to the distinct lack of conflict in Afghanistan as evidence their government has brought security and peace to the nation, which for decades prior had been wracked by war.

There has also seemingly been a reduction in corruption, which was rife amid the two-decade-long rule of Western-backed governments thanks to the aid money poured into the country. 

But human rights observers say this relative security was achieved by ruthless policing and a restriction of general freedoms – and has been blighted by an increase in terror attacks by extremist groups. 

And the plight of women has become dire since the return of the Taliban.

Girls over the age of 12 have been mostly excluded from school and the government has also stopped most Afghan female staff from working at aid agencies, closed beauty salons, barred women from public spaces like parks and gyms and curtailed travel for women in the absence of a male guardian.

Journalism and activism, which also blossomed in the two decades of rule by Western-backed governments, has been significantly suppressed with a slew of media workers and campaigners detained. 

But these factors appeared to be of little importance for the British imams, who sang the praises of their hosts on Afghan television.

Suliman Gani, a Muslim chaplain at St George’s Hospital in the district of Tooting in London, said to the RTA network: ‚We are understanding your vision and it’s very, very positive … the government itself have set such an amazing vision which has really touched my heart and really impressed me and gives us more confidence.‘

Al-Haddad meanwhile dismissed the importance of women’s education and said the Taliban must focus on consolidating security, economy and spirituality.

‚Security [is] the first element of establishing a country and the second one is … economy and the third one then [is] the spiritual kind of dimension,‘ he said. 

‚Then we can discuss other things about women’s education. 

The British imams sang the praises of their hosts on Afghan television before returning to London to extoll their virtues

Taliban supporters parade through the streets of Kabul on August 15, 2023 in Kabul

Afghan women wait to receive food rations distributed by a humanitarian aid group, in Kabul, Afghanistan, Tuesday, May 23, 2023

Speaking at QMUL, Hamid Mahmood, the founder of an Islamic girls‘ school in east London, told the audience of the freedom he felt in Afghanistan.

‚It was somewhat a quite sad and painful experience leaving that land because I will be very honest and I’ve said this very clearly that there was something there, a feeling [of] outright freedom,‘ he declared.

‚After speaking to many ministers we realised what freedom meant. They were trying to free themselves not just from physical oppression, physical subjugation and colonialism but also financial, economic and also intellectual enslavement.‘

But Zalmai Nishat, founder of the anti-extremist Etidal Peace and Democracy Foundation told The Times: ‚This is a perfect exercise of whitewashing and glorification of the Taliban… this security they talk about is at the expense of freedom and marginalisation of ethnic communities in Afghanistan.‘

A spokesperson for QMUL told The Times the event in September was not sponsored by the university, adding that it was jointly organised by Prosper Afghanistan and Human Aid & Advocacy. 

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