Taliban's straight bat on cricket

By Lianne Gutcher

What questions would you like to ask the Taliban?

Why the organisation has decided to enter into negotiations with the US, perhaps, or whether the group will ban girls from attending school if it returns to power.

These are just a few of the questions fired at the Taliban spokesman, Zabihullah Mujahid, on a new Q&A webpage, with the Islamist insurgent group launching a concerted PR drive to try to convince Afghans they are not the music-hating, women-stoning extremists of the past.

Topping the most recent batch of questions was an inquiry about the Taliban's stance on cricket. Given the current success of the Afghan cricket team - it has just qualified for the Twenty20 World Cup for a second time - Abu Mohammad Ilyas Ahmadi wanted to know whether the Taliban would allow the game to be played if it returnsto power. "There will not be any problems," Mujahid said. "All sport that is not against religion we do not have a problem with."

It is the Taliban's record on female education and empowerment that crops up most. During its rule from 1996 to 2001, girls were banned from attending school. Mujahid insists it was lack of funds available to ensure girls' schools were run according to Islamic rules that caused them to be shut down. "We want our mothers and sisters to have education according to Islamic framework."

The PR blitz has included a wholehearted embracing of the internet and social networking. Mujahid, who is widely assumed to be more than one person, regularly sends journalists statements via email. The organisation has also taken to Twitter.

The Q&A section of the Taliban's Voice of Jihad website was launched in February, and receives an average of eight questions a day.

- Independent

© Copyright 2014, APN New Zealand Limited

Assembled by: (static) on production bpcf03 at 19 Dec 2014 17:50:48 Processing Time: 906ms