A group of British imams has met with Taliban ministers during a visit to Afghanistan supporting a charity that was previously investigated for links to jihadists, GB News can reveal.
An NHS Muslim Chaplain who supports patients in South London was part of the delegation, which met with the Taliban’s foreign minister and toured Afghan industry and settlements.
Suliman Gani, who works as a Muslim chaplain at St George’s University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust in South London, was photographed alongside the Taliban’s Foreign Minister Amir Khan Muttaqi.
Muttaqi was the Taliban’s culture minister during its 1996-2001 government, which was toppled by the US-led invasion after the 9/11 terror attacks.
Suliman Gani was photographed alongside the Taliban’s Foreign Minister Amir Khan Muttaqi
At the start of the 2020 Doha negotiations, the Taliban said that Muttaqi had led "innovative activities" during this period, where he “established a systematic jihadist publication apparatus against the enemy’s widespread media aggression.”
The Taliban added that Muttaqi “played a key role in enlightening the minds about jihad and thwarting the enemy’s propaganda aggression.”
GB News understands that the NHS was not aware of Mr Gani’s trip to the Islamic Emirate in advance.
Mr Gani launched an online fundraiser for a hospital and a "vocational skills institute", which has raised £290 for the Human Aid and Advocacy charity.
The fundraiser says that Afghanistan “gained independence from US occupied rule in 2021”, but laments that the country “has been largely ostracised by the international community” under Taliban rule.
Recent UN reports in Afghanistan have found extensive human-rights abuses since 2021, detailing public floggings and executions for opponents of the regime. The international community has lambasted the Taliban for unjust detentions and shootings of former administrators who worked for the previous government of Ashraf Ghani in Kabul.
The UN has claimed that “Terrorist groups enjoy greater freedom there than at any time in recent history” and, “There are no recent signs that the Taliban has taken steps to limit the activities of foreign terrorist fighters.”
The charity that Mr Gani is supporting during his trip to Afghanistan was investigated by the Charity Commission in 2013, which launched a probe after reports that it co-hosted a charity event which had speakers who held “controversial and/or extremist” views.
The Charity Commission discovered multiple financial issues involving fundraising, due diligence and monitoring.
Human Aid faced another investigation over issues related to cash couriering.
In August 2019, the commission restricted the trustees from transferring funds outside of the UK without prior authorisation.
A month later, it issued a secondary order which restricted the trustees from “transferring or applying any of the charity’s funds or property in Turkey and/or Syria” without permission from the commission.
Human Aid had links with a non-profit organisation which facilitated its work in Turkey and Syria.
The Charity Commission revealed in October 2021 that the police disclosed that the non-profit was being used to provide support to Al-Qaeda associates in Syria.
The charity’s partnership with the terror-linked group started in August 2017 and ended in February 2019. Between February and July 2018, it couriered over £246,000 in cash to the group, but could not demonstrate proper documents in relation to the expenditure of the large sum.
At the time, the Charity Commission said that it “saw no evidence that the Charity’s relationship with the NPO [non-profit organisation] continued beyond when the Charity was first made aware of the concerns.”
Human Aid — which has since rebranded to Human Aid and Advocacy — had a Zakat Fund, whose projects were “verified by Sheikh Haitham Al-Haddad.”
GB News can reveal that Al-Haddad was also present on the charity visit to Afghanistan and met with the Taliban’s foreign minister.
Al-Haddad has a long history of controversial remarks and has had events cancelled or postponed at several British universities after being accused of promoting homophobic and antisemitic views.
The cleric, who has presided over a sharia court in east London, was accused of arguing that a man should not be questioned for hitting his wife and accused of defending female genital mutilation, reportedly claiming that there is a “proper” way to do it.
Sara Khan, the government’s counter-extremism commissioner, said in 2018 that Al-Haddad’s message was “misogynistic, racist and homophobic.”
Al-Haddad celebrated Erdogan’s victory in Turkish elections earlier this year, writing for Islam21C.com that “so-called ‘Islamists’ need to work hard and work together to utilise this victory to benefit the Ummah [the global Muslim community] all over the world.”
During their recent visit to Afghanistan, the delegation of imams toured areas in Kabul.
In a Facebook post, a member of the group said that a “vocational centre for women” was thriving after the “liberation” of Afghanistan. They said that women were being taught skills to “make it easy” to find employment.
The same representative also praised local parks in Kabul for being “filled with people,” including women, adding that they appeared busier than public parks in Britain.
Last year, the Taliban’s Ministry of Vice and Virtue said it closed parks and gyms for women because “we have seen both men and women together in parks and, unfortunately, the hijab was not observed.”
Women’s rights, particularly in education and work, have been rolled back in Afghanistan, according to international observers and refugees who have fled the regime since it stormed to power in September 2021.
During the tour, Mr Gani was filmed praising local infrastructure after leaving a toilet. He said it was “not the best of holes” but provided “a life of simplicity, essence and charm,” adding “what a wonderful experience.”
GB News understands that the Taliban’s Chief Justice, Sheikh Abdul Hakim Haqqani, also met with the British delegation. In a statement issued by the country’s Supreme Court seen by this broadcaster, Sheikh Haqqani said: “Afghanistan was freed from occupation and we will try to create such governments worldwide that are committed to establishing all the Sharia principles.”
The statement added that the British delegation “expressed that British Muslims are very happy with the rule of Islamic Emirate in Afghanistan and pray for its survival.”
St George’s University Hospitals Trust did not provide a statement when contacted by GB News.
Suliman Gani’s name was removed from the NHS trust’s website soon after this broadcaster asked questions about his visit to Afghanistan.
A senior St George’s hospital source said: “I don’t understand why he’s not immediately been suspended or sacked? Apparently the hospital has taken ‘safeguarding measures’ before he returns to work.”
In a statement, Human Aid & Advocacy said: "On 3 August 2023, a delegation of British Imams and Muslim scholars led by Human Aid & Advocacy concluded an 8-day humanitarian visit to Afghanistan.
"The humanitarian visit was organised in coordination with a fact-finding mission led by Prosper Afghanistan, a community initiative dedicated to furthering understanding of Afghanistan, which facilitated a series of meetings between the scholars and Afghan officials."
When asked by GB News, Human Aid & Advocacy did not distance themselves from the statement from the Afghan Supreme Court, which said that its delegation “expressed that British Muslims are very happy with the rule of Islamic Emirate in Afghanistan and pray for its survival" and that the "Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan as a Shariah-based system is a role model and the best example for the entire Islamic world."