Sun. Dec 5th, 2021

The Australian Association of Islamic Councils (Afic) has canceled its planned online forum, which was to include two senior Taliban representatives, after facing strong criticism from Muslim and Afghan communities.

“I really thought it was a joke,” said Mariam Veiszadeh, a lawyer and advocate for civil rights from the Afghan-Australian community.

“I think Afic has been out of touch with the wider Muslim community in Australia for a very long time and it just cements it further.”

In a statement released Thursday morning, Afic said it decided to cancel the event “in response to community concerns,” in which Afic’s president, Dr. Rateb Jneid, said the event was not intended to “legitimize any group”:

“This event was not convened to legitimize any group or to offend any group … in light of developments, I have made the executive decision to cancel the event.”

The statement said “discussion” had taken place with “officials in Australia” during the planning of the event.

Afic’s CEO, Keysar Trad, told ABC Radio on Thursday that the event was an opportunity to “gain assurances about the rights of minorities and women and also deter and deter all young people from traveling to that region.”

But Veiszadeh said the event reflected a “lack of judgment” from Afic and questioned the leadership of the organization.

“I do not think the current management of Afic has the judgment or experience to know how to advocate for society.”

“They should raise and take the lead from the Australians in Afghanistan and ask them how they can help, rather than seek to frame the narrative in a way that benefits them personally.”

“It’s just a slap in the face that instead of platforming and raising the voices of the victims, they intend to raise the voices of the perpetrator.”

Veiszadeh, along with a number of Afghan-Australian and Muslim community leaders, joined the Afghanistan-Australian Advocacy Network (AAAN) to condemn the event and called for an apology from Afic.

AAAN’s Arif Hussein said there was “no justification” for such an event to be held.

“There is no justification for providing a public platform for Taliban members at a time when they continue to oppress the rights of women and minorities like Hazaras in Afghanistan. This event clearly shows a clear lack of judgment and empathy on the part of Afic. ”

Attorney Atika Hussain, a member of Australia’s Afghan-Hazara community, said while the cancellation of the event was welcome, she feared there would be retaliation for the cancellation against Hazaras in Afghanistan.

In an online discussion on Afic’s Facebook page, the Afic account said that opposition to the forum had come from Australia’s Hazara community.

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“Some people are trying to censor a 58-year-old Muslim body and prevent it from addressing concerns raised in many parts of the nation. It’s just that many of these objections are led by people who identify as Hazara, ”Afic said. “It seems that no one wants Afghanistan to move forward from its crippling past sectarian conflicts. Shame really. ”

Hussain said at a time when the Taliban was seeking to establish international legitimacy, suddenly having a public forum canceled – and the cancellation attributed to the Hazara community – posed a real and significant risk of harm to Hazaras in Afghanistan.

“My friends in Afghanistan said to me, ‘What if they cancel it? The blame is already there, it has already been laid on Hazara. So we can expect a negative response from the Taliban, we can expect retaliation ‘.

“And it is not true. Opposition to the event was not only from Hazaras, it was from the wider Afghan community, from Pashtun, from Tajik, just targeting Hazara is irresponsible and wrong. ”

Hussain said Hazara in Afghanistan feared retaliation.

“The Taliban are looking for platforms, legitimacy, and they are now being told that it is the Hazaras who stopped it. This event has created fear, instead of creating unity, it has harmed our society. ”

The ethnic and religious minority Hazara has faced generations of violent persecution at the hands of the Taliban and other Sunni Muslim extremist groups.

A Shia mosque, which mainly participated in Hazara, was attacked in Kunduz on Friday in an attack claimed by an Islamic State federation. Thousands of Hazaras have also been displaced from their homes by the Taliban in Daikundi province.

The cancellation also comes after the Prime Minister of New South Wales, Dominic Perrottet, issued a statement in which the NSW government had asked Afic to cancel the event.

“The NSW community is currently opening its arms to refugees and Australian repatriations from Afghanistan.”

“We join Muslim community leaders in NSW, and especially Afghan community leaders, in condemning events of this nature.”

Afic has been contacted for comment.

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