Muslim religious leaders have urged the Taliban to overturn its decision to suspend women from attending universities in Afghanistan.
It comes as Muslim-majority countries from around the world criticise the Afghan government for enacting the ban.
Female university students were turned away last week after the Taliban said gender segregation in those institutions was not in line with its understanding of Islamic laws and teachings.
“Allah will bring such a day when all schools and universities will be opened for all. Do not despair. The country’s education system will be organized, independent, advanced and free of all kinds of corruption,” a Taliban official tweeted in the Pashto language last week, implying that the ban was a temporary move.
But Grand Imam of Al-Azhar Ahmed El-Tayyeb said the Taliban should reconsider their decision now, stating that the prohibition goes against Sharia law.
In a statement, he said Islam’s call for knowledge among men and women “has produced mighty minds among women along the scientific and political history of Islam.”
Tayeb warned “Muslims and non-Muslims against believing or accepting the allegation that it banning women’s education is approved in Islam.”
“Indeed, Islam firmly denounces such banning since it contradicts the legal rights Islam equally guarantees for women and men,” he added.
— الأزهر الشريف (@AlAzhar) December 24, 2022
Sheikh Yasir Qadhi also wrote on social media that anyone who makes a ‘blanket claim’ that sharia prohibits women from being educated is wrong.
“And if there are issues with the environment or curriculum that some might find problematic, the solution is to fix the secondary problems, rather than create larger ones by halting education on the mothers and sisters and daughters of a society.
“We have many battles to fight, in every land. I am not from that region, hence I cannot speak to specifics, and I can only talk as an outsider. But I do say that as a general rule, educating women is not a part of the problem, it is a part of the solution to any society’s growth and thriving.”
Middle East countries condemn Taliban block
Governments from around the Muslim world condemned the Taliban’s prohibition on higher education for women when it was announced last week.
Qatar released a statement expressing “deep concern and disappointment.”
“These negative practices will have a significant impact on human rights, development, and the economy in Afghanistan,” Doha’s foreign ministry said.
“As a Muslim country in which women enjoy all their rights, especially education, the state of Qatar calls on the Afghan caretaker government to review its decision in line with the teachings of the Islamic religion concerning women’s rights.”
Saudi Arabia’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs expressed “astonishment and regret” at the decision and called on the Taliban to reverse this decision.
Turkey’s presidential spokesperson, Ibrahim Kalin, tweeted that the ban was “against the spirit of Islam” and had “no place in religion.”
The United Arab Emirates stated the ban and “earlier bans on girls from accessing secondary education violate fundamental human rights, contravene the teachings of Islam and must be swiftly reversed.”
Meanwhile, the Organization for Islamic Cooperation (OIC) said, “The OIC, though still committed to its engagement policy with the de facto administration, cannot but denounce the decision, calling on Kabul authorities to reverse it for the sake of maintaining consistency between their promises and actual decisions.”