Taliban have 'Grown Up' and Should Be Given a Chance, Says Islamic Scholar

An Islamic scholar says the Taliban have "grown up" since they were last in power and that they should be given a chance.

The Taliban swept into Kabul last weekend and have since vowed to respect women's rights and not seek vengeance on those who fought them.

But thousands of Afghans, fearing persecution and a return to the strict form of Islamic rule the Taliban imposed in the late 1990s, are desperate to flee the country.

Khola Hasan, a scholar with the U.K. Islamic Sharia Council, has claimed the group has evolved in the 20 years since U.S.-led forces toppled the Taliban regime after invading Afghanistan in the wake of the September 11 attacks in 2001.

She said the Taliban's promises regarding women's rights were "a good start" in an interview on BBC Radio 4's Sunday program.

"I don't know what the future holds for anybody and I hope they've learnt from their lessons," Hasan said.

"Twenty years ago is a long time. Twenty years ago, we were different people. We've matured, I hope, all of us. We've evolved our thinking and I hope the same thing has happened with the Taliban. When we listen to the way they've been speaking and the way they've been behaving as well... I'm grateful for the language they're using and I'm really hopeful."

Asked about reports of women and children being beaten and whipped by Taliban fighters as they tried to pass through checkpoints, Hasan told journalist William Crawley that Afghanistan is a "tribal society with tribal loyalties."

She continued: "There will be people who are angry about things that have happened to them over the last 40 years, especially over the last 20 years after the American invasion."

Hasan added: "We don't know the details, and we have to be very careful [not] to take small, minor incidents and make them into something huge."

She also maintained that "Western media loves misrepresenting Muslims."

A US soldier shoots in the air
A US soldier shoots in the air with his pistol while standing guard behind barbed wire as Afghans sit on a roadside near the military part of the airport in Kabul on August 20, 2021, hoping to flee from the country after the Taliban's military takeover of Afghanistan. Wakil Kohsar/AFP via Getty Images

"The kind of language that came out from Western media when the Taliban took over... civil war, monsters, they're going to slaughter people, it's going to be awful, poor women, oh blah blah blah, we're going to cry our eyes out, poor women are going back into medieval times, and all the rest of it.

"It's been misrepresented for so long that I've got used to it, I don't even blink an eyelid anymore."

She questioned why the same outrage was not being directed towards France, where Muslim women are banned from wearing certain religious attire.

"If you want to talk about women's rights, women not being allowed to go to the beach unless they wear certain clothes...this is France," Hasan said.

BBC interviewer William Crawley then cited reports of Taliban militants "going door to door with lists of people's names, taking people... in some cases, people have been killed."

He also pointed out that the Taliban had made promises to be "compassionate and merciful" when they first sacked Kabul 25 years ago. "We've seen this movie before, Khola," he said.

"No, we haven't," she replied. "Because the Taliban have grown up.

"They were not exposed to the modern world, so what they were saying 20 years ago, this was a myopic, insulated, small organization, living in the mountains, very illiterate, very uneducated, not just about the world but about Islam itself...."

She continued: "They have now realized that actually, Muslims all over the world are doing really really well... they're learning.

"That's not an easy thing to do, to come from hundreds of years of one way of practising your faith, and then suddenly to be exposed to different ways to think, 'oh my God, maybe we got it wrong.' The problem is we don't give them a chance.'"

Asked about how common her point of view is among British Muslims, Hasan claimed that many were celebrating.

"Every single person that I know, as a Muslim, whether on social media, I don't know them personally but I know them on social media or as friends, are celebrating and saying, give them a chance," she said.

Hasan has been contacted for additional comment.