Monday, October 2, 2023

Prominent UK Islamists Pay Homage to Taliban in Afghanistan, Face Condemnation from Fellow Muslims

ResearchInvestigationsProminent UK Islamists Pay Homage to Taliban in Afghanistan, Face Condemnation from Fellow Muslims

A group of Islamist imams and activists from the United Kingdom met with Taliban leaders in Afghanistan in late July in an apparent effort to soften the image of  the regime. The trip ended days before former Prime Minister Gordon Brown called for the regime to be prosecuted for crimes against humanity for its mistreatment of women in the country.

A number of prominent UK-based Islamists participated in the trip.  Haitham Al-Haddad, the chair of the Fatwa Committee of the Islamic Council of Europe who participated,  said the visit was about building bridges between Afghanistan and the UK. “It will be followed by different constructive engagements with the authorities and the public people to achieve that aim,” Haddad proclaimed in a televised interview by state owned TV channel RTA Afghanistan with some of the UK imams. To legitimize his meetings with Taliban officials, Haddad cited a visit to Afghanistan conducted by Conservative in mid-July by MP Tobias Ellwood, chair of the Commons Defence Select Committee. (Ellwood faces a no-confidence vote in September as a result of the controversy surrounding his trip.)

In 2021, Haddad was banned from entering Denmark for four years and placed on a list of foreign religious figures deemed a danger to public security. He has declared homosexuality a crime, spoken in favor of female genital mutilation and affirmed a man’s right to hit his wife. He has claimed Jewish people are descended from “apes and pigs,” although he has claimed in the past his comments have been misinterpreted. In a series of lectures, Haddad states that Muslims must aspire to institute Islamic states so that Islam can be implemented fully, and that this must be the aim of Muslims living in the West, according to the 2014 report Evangelising Hate by the Council of Ex Muslims of Britain.

Sulaiman Ghani, the imam of a mosque in Surrey and an NHS Chaplain at St George’s Hospital in Tooting, also participated in the visit. In 2013, Ghani led a demonstration outside the Houses of Parliament against the treatment of jihadists detained in Guantanamo Bay. At the protest he called terror detainees, including 9/11 mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, “nice people.”

Other identified members of the delegation to Afghanistan include Hamid Mahmood, the founder and principal of a girls’ madrassah in East London, as well as Mohammed Rabbani, director of pro-jihadist advocacy group CAGE. This group, which advocates for convicted jihadis, described Mohammed Enwazi (“Jihadi John”) — a British member of ISIS who beheaded Western aid workers and journalists in Syria — as a “beautiful young man” who was radicalized by UK security officials. Rabbani was recently banned from France as a “serious threat to public order and the internal security of France for promoting conspiracy theories about “Islamophobic persecution.”

A few days after the imams returned to England, a report by Afghan Witness stated that women have been beheaded and their bodies dumped in rivers or streets under Taliban rule in Afghanistan. The report prompted Brown, UN Special Envoy on Education, to call on the International Criminal Court to take action against the regime.

The trip, which began on July 27 and ended in early August, prompted expressions of outrage from British Muslims who worry that the meetings will legitimize the imposition of Shariah and the oppression of women in both Afghanistan and the United Kingdom. Taj Hargey, an Oxford-based imam and founder of the Oxford Institute for British Islam, told Focus on Western Islamism that the imams who visited Afghanistan are trying to promote an intolerable modus vivendi between the United Kingdom and the Taliban, which promotes the oppression of women under the guise of Islam.

“It has nothing to do with the faith. It is medieval patriarchy, the most regressive Neanderthal version of it that seeks total and exclusive male domination of society and has no place in Afghanistan or the UK,” he said. “There should be no agreement with the Taliban until they commit to giving women – the majority of the Afghan population – their basic rights to education, employment, personal security and freedom.”

According to the Islamist website 5Pillars, a newly established charity, Prosper Afghanistan, facilitated the meetings between the imams and Afghani officials.

Haitham al-Haddad with Mohammad Khalid Hanafi, Taliban Minister for the Propagation of Virtue and Prevention of Vice (Source: Habibi_UK Twitter Account)

The imams met with a number of high-ranking Taliban officials including Mohammad Khalid Hanafi, Afghani minister for the Propagation of Virtue and the Prevention of Vice. Human Rights Watch reports this ministry has prohibited women from working in the civil service and for national and international governmental organizations, stopped girls from attending schools, and has flogged women for being out in public without a male relative, and for failing to cover their hands, ankles and feet when outside their homes.

In addition to Khalid Hanafi, the imams also met with Justice Minister Abdul Hakim Haqqani. Haqqani is prohibited from traveling by the European Union because of his role in promoting “gender-based repression against women [in Afghanistan] by excluding female judges from the Afghan court system and systematically restricting women’s access to justice, thereby violating the principle of equal treatment between men and women.”

Haqqani used the visit from the UK imams to legitimize Taliban rule, declaring that the delegation “expressed that British Muslims are very happy with the rule of Islamic Emirate in Afghanistan and pray for its survival.”

The delegation also met with Foreign Minister Amir Khan Muttaqi, who has urged the U.S. and other nations to release over $14 billion in frozen funds and expressed the Taliban’s desire for good relations with all countries.

UK publisher and Quran scholar Paigham Mustafa, director of the Oxford Institute for British Islam, told FWI that the imams who visited Afghanistan have legitimized a regime that “is acting in total contradiction to the teachings of the Qur’an, a guide for Islamic society that emphasizes the importance of reading, writing, and disseminating knowledge, as well as equality of opportunity for both men and women. These values have been abandoned in favor of empty rituals and traditions.”

Hannah Baldock is a UK-based researcher on radicalization and terrorism.

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