The Australian Federation of Islamic Councils (AFIC) has cancelled a planned event after it attracted criticism for providing a platform for senior Taliban representatives to speak in Australia to Muslim youth.
The online forum was titled The Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan and Diaspora Muslims, and was billed as a “stellar panel of speakers” discussing “the future of Afghanistan and our role, regardless of whether we are in favour or against recent developments.”
Suhail Shaheen who has been the Taliban’s spokesperson since U.S. troops withdrew from Afghanistan in August, was advertised as being on the panel. Another Taliban representative, Sayed Abdul Basir Sabiri, was also listed.
Federal Home Affairs Minister Karen Andrews, in a statement, encouraged the AFIC event organisers to reconsider the planned event.
“I encourage the organisers to think deeply about their event, and reflect on how much hurt it would cause veterans, Australian Afghans, ethnic Hazaras, and the women of Afghanistan—all of whom have suffered under the Taliban—for it to go ahead as reported this morning,” she said in a statement.
After the Daily Telegraph reported on the event, NSW Premier Dominic Perrottet also said he was “deeply concerned” about it.
“There will be a lot of people today who have served in Afghanistan, who have had loved ones lost fighting in Afghanistan, who will be deeply shocked and sad to see that report today,” he said.
Following the criticism and concerns expressed in the community, the AFIC cancelled the event on Thursday.
AFIC said in a statement that the event had sought to interview representatives of the Taliban “in the hope of obtaining assurances for the human rights of minorities, the rights of women to employment and education and to dissuade Australians from travelling to the region with any wrongful intent.”
AFIC President Dr. Rateb Jneid said, “This event was not convened to legitimise any group or to offend any group, it was purely to obtain the afore stated assurances.”
“In view of the developments, I have taken the executive decision to cancel the event.”