Islamic State Deems Taliban “Nullifiers of Islam”, Accuses Group of “Befriending” China, Russia, USA, Iran, and Others
Over the last few months, pro-Islamic State (IS) channels online have been recirculating an infographic, originally published around mid-2021, outlining some core arguments as to why the Taliban are “the Nullifiers of Islam”. The propaganda statement is presented in point-form and asserts that the Taliban’s domestic policies and foreign relations provide evidence of the Taliban’s moral corruption and religious degradation.
The document offers five main lines of argument and has been translated into various languages including English, French, Turkish, Urdu, Arabic, Danish, Pashto, and possibly more.
1.) “Abandoning the rulings by what Allah azzawajal has revealed and ruling by tribal laws mixed with Shariah”.
The Islamic State accuses the Taliban of failing to implement a pure form of Shariah and of mixing such tenants with nationalism and Pashtun local codes. IS criticizes the Taliban for being Pashtun-centric, nationalistic, and patriotic instead of a true bonafide religious movement. For IS, this amounts to apostasy. The group says the Taliban persecute non-Pashtun ethnic groups, including Uzbeks and Tajiks. IS has sought to exploit this for recruitment and support, appealing to potentially disenfranchised elements within non-Pashtun minority groups.
2.) “Fighting the Muslims while receiving support from the kuffar (e.g Russia and USA) and murtadin (e.g Iran).”
By “fighting the Muslims,” the Islamic State does not refer to the Muslim community, but, rather, itself. IS’s Khurasan Province (ISKP) has been at war with the Taliban since their leaders pledged allegiance to Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi back in 2015. In terms of “receiving support from the kuffar,” the Islamic State specifically mentions countries like the US, Russia, and Iran.
In this same context, Pakistan is often accused of collaborating indirectly with the Taliban to fight the Islamic State — a topic of intense focus for IS. During the last years of the occupation, they say, the United States cooperated with the Taliban toward the same end.
Allegedly, Iran has similarly helped the Taliban fight IS in Afghanistan, with the Islamic Republic enlisting former Taliban members to contain the caliphate’s expansion. The Islamic State also mentions Russia, believing the Russians provided support to the Taliban, justifying it as means to fight ISKP.
3.) “Not making takfir of the mushrikeen (Shias) and appointing them to high positions of power.”
There are a number of IS talking points that supposedly prove this. For instance, a Shia Hazara figure was appointed as deputy health minister. A military commander, Maulavi Mahdi, has received a great deal of IS attention as he served as a sort of bridge between the Taliban and the Hazara community. Then, on July 7, 2021, Shia Iran participated in peace talks between the Taliban and the former Afghan government.
The Taliban’s pursuit of cordial diplomatic relations with its neighbors, in this case with Iran, serves as potent propaganda fodder for IS.
4.) “Not disbelieving in the tawaghit and not making takfir of their Governments, Armed Forces and Intelligence Agencies.”
The Islamic State argues that the Taliban has been unacceptably soft on the previous Afghan government and those who formerly served in the military and intelligence apparatus. After taking Kabul, for instance, the Taliban promised amnesty for former government workers.
IS even tends to compare the Taliban to the previous government in accepting tens of millions in foreign aid, adhering to international law, and “[signing] pledges with kuffar against the mujahidin of the Islamic State”.
5.) Befriending the kuffar (e.g USA, Russia, China) and murtadin (e.g Qatar, Pakistan, Iran) and taking them as allies.”
In the months before their return, the Taliban had meetings with China and pursued diplomatic relations with Russia. IS also argues that rather than defeating the Americans and seizing power, the US strategically allowed, or even actively facilitated, the transfer of rule to the Taliban. IS alleges that the Taliban is a proxy force for the US and other perceived enemies of Islam.
In addition to being viewed as infidels by the Islamic State, these countries are perceived as being legendary enemies of the Muslims, with the Chinese carrying out harsh and oppressive policies towards Xinjiang’s Uyghur Muslims, the Russians invading Afghanistan and waging wars in Chechnya and Syria, and the US invading Afghanistan and Iraq and bombing the caliphate heartland in Iraq and Syria.
The Islamic State has recently used the plight of the Uyghurs for recruitment and to bash the Taliban for cozying up to Beijing. On the other hand, the Taliban allegedly has links with Pakistan and its intelligence services, which the Islamic State criticizes the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan for.
Regarding Qatar, which is viewed as an apostate government by IS, the Taliban is scorned for abandoning jihad and the battlefield in favor of negotiations in luxurious hotels. The Taliban is quite close to Qatar, and their leaders stayed there before the fall of the previous government. Back in 2013, they were allowed to establish an office in Doha. Qatar served as a mediator between the Taliban and the US. Since the fall of Kabul, Qatar has been acting as a US diplomatic representative in Afghanistan.
The Taliban has been engaged in physical confrontations with IS since they officially emerged in Afghanistan back in 2015. However, the other half of the battle is being fought in the media and narrative realm. Propaganda is being used by the Islamic State in order to delegitimize the Taliban as a religious authority and discredit it as a governing body. Part of the reason for this is to change minds and bring more Islamists to IS’s side.
The Islamic State has been using many means of propaganda to attack the Taliban, including videos, audio statements, and magazines. There have been some fears of disgruntled Taliban fighters defecting to ISKP, though it is unclear how many have done so thus far.