Photo: Hafiz Zia Ahmad via X

British ulema who visited Taliban face backlash for “propaganda campaign”

A delegation of British religious scholars who met Taliban authorities in Afghanistan have faced widespread backlash from activists who accused them of being involved in a “propaganda campaign to whitewash the Taliban.”

In a petition launched Saturday, more than 400 former diplomats, rights activists, academics, and journalists have called on the UK government to take action and open an investigation.

“As concerned members of Afghanistan’s civil society and democratic forces, we urge British authorities to end the propaganda and disinformation campaign of these individuals and the organizations they represent.” Part of the petition reads.

In late July, the delegation of British ulema, mostly of Pakistani and Arab origins, traveled to Afghanistan in a “fact-finding mission” to meet senior Taliban authorities, including the Taliban’s Minister of Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice, the Foreign Minister, the Justice Minister, and the Minister of Higher Education.

The petition, however, argues that the visits were driven by different motives.

“These figures in Britain have undertaken a widespread propaganda campaign to whitewash the actions of the Taliban, including intellectualizing the Taliban’s measures to deny girls and women of their basic and fundamental rights as part of what experts have considered a ‘gender apartheid’ in the country.” The petition stated.

The activists pointed out that the religious scholars’ trip to Afghanistan, which they claimed was for humanitarian reasons, is part of the Taliban’s attempt to gain international recognition despite their ongoing human rights violations.

The activists said that these religious scholars do not represent the views of the larger Islamic community worldwide and do not fully understand the complex socio-political and humanitarian challenges facing Afghanistan.

“These whitewashing and propaganda efforts counter the tireless struggles of Afghanistan’s civil society and democratic forces to re-establish the rule of law, democracy, and pluralism in the country.” They mentioned in the petition.