We hate dancing, kite-flying and women... but we love cricket: Taliban's bizarre website Q&A reveals the one sport acceptable to extremists


The irony is clearly lost on the Taliban.

While in power the hard-line Islamic movement barred girls from going to school, outlawed television, cinema and music and even banned kite-flying.

But it seems cricket, the sport that has championed fair play for centuries, is acceptable to fundamentalists.

Howzat: The Taliban say cricket will be permitted if they regain power in Afghanistan

Howzat: The Taliban say cricket will be permitted if they regain power in Afghanistan

The Taliban has confirmed on its official webpage that the game will be permitted if it returns to power.

Such is cricket's hold in Afghanistan that fan Abu Mohammad Ilyas Ahmadi felt compelled to use a new Q&A section on the Voice of Jihad site to ask about its future.

Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid assured him the Afghan cricket team, which has just qualified for the Twenty20 World Cup for the second time, would still be allowed to play.

Mr Mujahid tells his correspondent: 'There will not be any problems.

'All sport that is not against religion we do not have a problem with.

'We also supported the game of cricket during the Taliban times'

EVEN PAPER BAGS BANNED

A ban on paper bags was among the Taliban's more bizarre decrees when it was in power in Afghanistan.

Its religious police only allowed plastic bags in the country because they said recycled paper may be made from pages of the Koran.

The Taliban beat men caught trimming their beard and women were whipped if they went out not wearing a burqa.

Televisions were outlawed because the Taliban said they showed un-Islamic programmes and they reportedly hung confiscated sets from trees using video tape.

Mr Mujahid did not elaborate on which sports are considered 'against religion'.

The liberation of Afghan women, allowing them to attend school, has long been held up by America as a key justification for invading the country in 2001, but Mr Mujahid claimed the Taliban was not opposed to educating women.

He wrote on the site that girls' schools were shut down due to a lack of funding, adding: 'We want our mothers and sisters to have education according to [an] Islamic framework.' 

In February, the Taliban sent a message of support to the Afghan cricket team ahead of their one day international (ODI) against Pakistan in Sharjah, saying they would pray for them.

The match was Afghanistan's first ODI against a Test-playing nation and Pakistan won by seven wickets.

It showed how far cricket has become an unusual unifying force in the war-town country, with Hamid Karzai, the Afghan president, said to have made several phone calls to match officials to check the score.

Dr Omar Zakhilwal, the country's finance minister, said at the time: 'Nothing has ever brought us together like this.'

In light of the 2014 deadline for troop withdrawal set by the White House,  the Taliban has mounted a PR offensive to make it appear more moderate and in tune with Western attitudes on human rights.

Unifying: Afghan cricketers take part in a practice session in Kabul in 2010

Unifying: Afghan cricketers take part in a practice session in Kabul in 2010

In spite of declaring the internet unholy in 2000 and banning television when in charge of Afghanistan between 1996 and 2001, it now has an English account on social networking site Twitter and uses video recordings to spread propaganda messages online.

An average of eight questions a day are posted on the Q&A section of the Voice of Jihad website, which was launched in February.

The site is full of denunciations of Western countries fighting in Afghanistan as 'infidels' and 'enemies of Islam', alongside exaggerated boasts about military successes.

Most questions seem to be from Taliban supporters but one poster giving his name as Haseeb ul Rahman asks: 'Don’t you think that killing all these people in suicide and bomb attacks every day is a big sin? Who do you think will be held responsible by Allah?'

Last year saw more than 3,000 civilians killed in Afghanistan, which Mr Mujahid blamed on 'technical problems.

He said: 'I can tell you with confidence that civilians are not deliberately killed by the mujahideen, rather it happens because of technical problems or missing the targets.'

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