Islamic Relief Worldwide trustee resigns over antisemitic social media posts

24 Jul 2020 News

An Islamic Relief Worldwide (IRW) trustee has resigned and the charity has apologised after antisemitic posts on social media were uncovered by a newspaper.

The Times newspaper reported today that Heshmat Khalifa, a British citizen who had sat on IRW boards around the world during the last 20 years, referred to Jews as “grandchildren of monkeys and pigs” on Facebook in 2014 and 2015.

IRW said in a statement that it “sincerely regrets any offence caused”. Companies House records show that Khalifa’s position at the charity was terminated on the same day that it became aware of the social media posts.

The charity also said it would be reviewing its screening process for future appointments. 

The Charity Commission confirmed that it has opened a compliance case and said the charity is cooperating with enquiries.

IRW has an income of £127m

IRW is one of the largest charities in the UK with an income of nearly £130m. 

The Birmingham-based charity’s latest accounts show that IRW had an income of £127m at the end of 2018, including £2m in matched funding from the British government. Voluntary donations in the UK are the single largest source of the charity’s income, and accounted for £25m in 2018.

IRW: Posts contravene our values and principles

In a statement on its website, IRW said: “Heshmat Khalifa has resigned from the board of trustees of IRW with immediate effect. He will also play no further part in any other Islamic Relief boards.

“We are sorry to say that posts on Mr Khalifa’s personal social media account in 2014 and 2015, which IRW was first made aware of on July 16 2020, contravene the values and principles of Islamic Relief Worldwide. Islamic Relief Worldwide sincerely regrets any offence caused.

“For his part, Mr Khalifa has acknowledged that these posts were unacceptable, and has apologised for falling short of the strict standards expected by our code of conduct.”

Khalifa told The Times: “I did not intend to insult the Jewish community and neither do I hold views which are antisemitic. 

“I have dedicated much of my life's work to promoting tolerance and freedom of religion and beliefs.” 

'All forms of discrimination are unacceptable'

The charity's statement added: “Islamic Relief Worldwide is a purely humanitarian organisation with no political affiliations. We work to uphold the highest humanitarian standards of neutrality, impartiality and independence, assisting people of all faiths and none, without discrimination by race, religion, gender or sexual orientation.

“We reject and condemn terrorism and believe that all forms of discrimination – including antisemitism – are unacceptable. These values are fundamental to our organisation, our donors and the people we serve.”

It said: “We are fully committed to reviewing our processes for screening trustees and senior executives’ social media posts to ensure that this will not happen again.”

'Racist comments are abhorrent and have no place in charity'

A Charity Commission spokesperson said: “Antisemitic and racist comments are abhorrent and have no place in charity.

“Charities exist to make the world a better place, and all trustees, as representatives of their charity, should be expected to conduct themselves in a way that is consistent with their charity’s purpose and values.

“We have opened a compliance case and contacted the charity for a response to these serious allegations. The charity is cooperating with our continuing enquiries and we have been informed that the individual has resigned as a trustee.” 

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