Interim manager appointment at Muslim charity is ‘politically motivated’, say civil society groups

01 Jun 2023 News

Some 35 civil society groups and individuals have called the Charity Commission’s decision to appoint an interim manager at the Islamic Centre of England “politically motivated”.

In a letter sent yesterday to chair Orlando Fraser, organisations including the Islamic Human Rights Commission and the Scottish Palestinian Society, alongside journalists, academics, and politicians, accused the regulator of perpetrating a vendetta against Muslim charities.  

They said that the regulator’s recent decision to appoint a non-Muslim interim manager to run the Centre “serves the interest of Islamophobes".

Appointment was ‘politically motivated’

Last month, the Commission appointed Emma Moody of Womble Bond Dickinson as interim manager of the Islamic Centre of England, which has been the subject of a statutory inquiry since November 2022.

Previously, the regulator issued an official warning to the Centre after “the trustees allowed a candlelit vigil to be held at the charity’s West London premises in response to the death of the Iranian major general Qasem Soleimani” who had been subject to UK financial sanctions. 

The signatories to the letter argued that Moody’s appointment is “politically motivated and serves the interests of Islamophobes who have been targeting this diverse community centre and place of worship”.

“Rather than remaining a neutral arbitrator and serving to address any genuine shortcomings that may exist, you have shown a biased approach and used punitive measures that unfairly penalise Muslim charities,” they wrote.

“It’s concerning that the Charity Commission continues to tell religious communities what they can say and who they can invite to their centres. The Commission is not qualified to determine what religious communities should be discussing, it’s not the business of any state body to tell its citizenry what they can say or believe in their places of worship.”

‘Unfair that a Muslim charity is treated in this way’

The signatories added that choosing to appoint a non-Muslim person shows “a clear lack of understanding of the needs of the Islamic Centre and its congregation”.

“To appoint an interim manager who is not from that faith community, not aware of its spiritual and religious needs, nor aware of the specific needs of that particular congregation, shows us that the Charity Commission has yet again failed to protect the best interests of a Muslim religious centre and its congregation.”

They concluded that such moves could alienate Muslims from their own places of worship and urged the regulator to reconsider its decision. 

“It’s wholly unfair that a Muslim charity is treated in this way due to the perception of it not conforming to Western foreign policy interests. Naturally, this behaviour will add to the chorus of voices accusing the Charity Commission of deliberately harassing and hindering the work of Muslim-run charities and adds to the litany of oppressive measures carried out in aid of furthering Islamophobic British state policies and the agendas of politically motivated and divisive pressure groups.”

Commission: ‘Any suggestion we acted beyond our statutory obligations is misleading’

The Commission said that its inquiry is ongoing and that it will publish a report once it has reached a conclusion. 

A spokesperson told Civil Society: “The circumstances in which we can appoint an interim manager to any charity under inquiry are set out in the Charities Act 2011, and the Commission must determine when it is considered necessary and proportionate. It is a temporary, protective measure.

“The Charity Commission is an independent regulator. Any suggestion we have acted beyond our statutory objectives, functions and obligations as a public body is misleading.” 

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