Prior to a public outcry which resulted in its cancellation, Australia’s peak Islamic body had invited two members of the Taliban to appear in a live webinar to Australian Muslims. The move to do so was condemned by Afghan refugees and Australian military veterans. The invitees had included longtime Taliban spokesman Suhail Shaheen, who failed to rule out a return to stonings and public executions under Afghanistan’s new leadership, and senior Taliban figure Sayed Abdul Basir Sabiri. The Australian Federation of Islamic Councils (AFIC) said it had brought together a “stellar panel of speakers” for the event to discuss “the future of Afghanistan and our role, regardless of whether we are in favour or against recent developments”.

Refugee advocate Sitarah Mohammadi, a member of Afghanistan’s long-persecuted Hazara minority, said she found it “horrifying” the Taliban figures were to be given a platform by Australia’s Islamic community to spread the regime’s propaganda. “It was completely inappropriate,” she said. “As part of the Hazara community, my family and I fled the rule of the Taliban in the late 1990s. To have seen faces like these on a prominent event like this would have been really traumatising. “Our people have suffered so horrifically at their hands, and continue to do so to this day.” Ms Mohammadi said the event would have allowed the Taliban to advance its push for global legitimacy so it could unlock international funds to strengthen its oppressive rule over the country.

“If anything, it would have legitimised them to have those members on the panel,” she said. Liberal Member for Herbert Phil Thompson, who was seriously wounded by an improvised explosive device while serving in Afghanistan as an army private, said the decision to invite the Taliban was a “misstep” by the council that would have outraged veterans. “Those two people from the Taliban should not have been invited and given a platform. The Taliban is an illegitimate government,” he said. “We have seen young girls unable to attend school. We see girls and women treated as property. “They are vile and barbaric. They rule with an iron fist and murder, and this organisation should never be given a platform in Australia.”

The chair of the federal parliament’s intelligence and security committee, James Paterson, also warned against giving the Taliban an opportunity “to support their claims of legitimacy”. “We should instead be doing everything we can to advance the cause of freedom for millions of Afghan girls and women who are now living under the control of a regime with a proven history of violence and brutality,” he said. AFIC president Rateb Jneid and National Grand Mufti of Australia Imam Abdul Quddoos Al Azhari were also to be among the speakers, along with Islamic legal scholar Mohammad Naqib Jan. Dr Jneid said many Australian Muslims were concerned about what was happening in Afghanistan. “We have many Afghan families who are worried about their loved ones in Afghanistan and they want to hear about the intentions of the government there.

Source:  Compiled by APN from media reports