Maryam Monsef criticized for Taliban ‘our brothers’ comment

OTTAWA – Canada’s minister for women and gender equality says she was using a cultural reference when she called the Taliban “our brothers” in a direct plea Wednesday.

Maryam Monsef, who is an Afghan Canadian, was quickly called out for the highly controversial reference, made during an update on military evacuations in Kabul.

In a direct plea to the Taliban, Monsef urged the terror group to allow people to leave Afghanistan.

“I want to take this opportunity to speak to our brothers, the Taliban. We call on you to ensure the safe and secure passage of any individual in Afghanistan out of the country,” she said.

Related article: Canada scales up military evacuations in Kabul amid Taliban takeover in Afghanistan

Monsef’s comments were criticized by many online in the moments after the words were said. When asked about her remarks during Wednesday’s Q&A, Monsef was quick to explain.

“The Taliban are a terrorist group, and yet they claim to be Muslims. We’re calling on them to immediately allow for the safe passage of any individual who is in Afghanistan out of the country. We are calling on them to immediately cease the violence, the femicide, the genocide, the rapes, the lootings, and to return immediately to the peace and negotiation table in an inclusive and meaningful way. If they will ever be recognized as a legitimate party, this is the starting point,” Monsef explained.

“The reference to brothers is a cultural reference, of course. But let me be very clear: we do not support the Taliban, we are horrified that the hard-won gains of the past 20 years are at stake like this, and being eroded like this.”

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau was asked to speak to Monsef’s comments Wednesday while on a campaign stop in B.C.

“We have been very, very clear: the Taliban are terrorists, and we have no plans to recognize them. We will continue to work with the international community to get as many Afghans to safety — not just in the coming days with the current operation, but into the coming months,” Trudeau said.

“The minister has expressed her views and explained herself. We will continue to recognize that the Taliban represent a terrorist organization and continue to push on them so people can get out to safety,” he said when asked whether Monsef would be asked to retract her comments.

According to her profile, Monsef is the first Afghan-Canadian in Canadian parliament, and the first Muslim to serve in Cabinet.

Monsef’s controversial comments came as Canada was providing an update on military evacuations in Kabul. So far, more than 2,700 people have been airlifted out of the Afghanistan capital since the Taliban’s takeover.

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