The Charity Commission has opened a statutory inquiry into Dar ul Uloom Islamia Rizwia (Bralawai) over concerns about its administration and management.
The Birmingham charity provides places of worship and religious teachings for the local community and has been operating in for almost 40 years.
In 2019, the regulator said it found that safeguarding policies and procedures were absent at the charity. It provided trustees with guidance and training, and the trustees agreed that the community centre would not re-open until improvements had been made.
However, in the last year the charity received negative media attention over social media posts. Complaints were raised directly with the regulator over this, which led to the Commission carrying out a compliance visit last month.
During the compliance case, the Commission said it was clear that the charity had re-opened without making the improvements to the community centre.
In October Birmingham Live reported on accusations that the mosque has failed to keep basic financial records of its donations, noting that worshippers have been calling for a change in management at the charity for some time.
Its accounts, for the financial year ending March 2019, which were filed with the Commission over 600 days late this October, include a warning from the auditors.
Auditors Locke Williams Associates said: “The charity did not have in place appropriate internal financial policies or controls with regard to the receipt, recording and banking of donations and supplementary school fees.”
The charity has filed its accounts late twice. Currently, its accounts are almost a year overdue, and in 2020 its accounts were filed 618 days late. The Commission has been investigating the charity's accounts since May.
In response to this, the charity made a statement that the mosque manager, the regulator and expert advisors are currently addressing these issues.
Co-operating with the Commission
The 2019 accounts also include a summary of the charity's engagement with the regulator since 2019, when concerned had been raised with the regulator.
Trustees said: “The charity was contacted again by the Charity Commission in August 2021, shortly before this report was approved.
“The Commission has informed us that it has again been approached with concerns about the governance of the charity and it has, as a result, opened a regulatory compliance case and asked the trustees to comment.
“The trustees are cooperating with the Commission and will continue to engage actively with it. A detailed response was made to the Commission during August and the trustees await with interest the response of the Commission and any advice the Commission wishes to provide.”
Social media posts
In the summer Birmingham Live also reported that Saddique Hussain, the mosque manager, shared a social media post that appeared to praise the Taliban on his personal Facebook account, which was referred the issue to the Charity Commission by the city council.
Hussain had shared a video that seemed to show members of the Taliban holding guns as they recited the Qu'ran.The caption read: “Alhamdulilah. How beautiful and civilised and no ‘I’. May Allah SWT guide us on to His beautiful religion”.
Readers interpreted this as support for the extremist group. According to Birmingham Live, Hussain said he had not intended to praise the Taliban, apologised, deleted the post and issued a statement on his Facebook page, which said: “The focus of the video was the recitation and I commented on that. This was ill-advised.
“I should have thought before I shared the post. Had I done so, I would have properly appreciated that:
“(1) The men were armed.
“(2) The group included individuals who were likely to be Taliban officials.
“(3) Any comment on the post might be taken as a comment on those pictured rather than a comment on the recitation.”
During the apology, Hussain explained how he was visited by the police at the mosque after being reported by a whistle-blower. After explaining his comments and denying any intention of wrongdoing to the officers, he deleted the post within minutes of them leaving, he said. His statement continued: “I reaffirm that I do not support and never have supported the Taliban.
“Once again, by sharing the post thus causing anyone any offence or hurt whatsoever I unreservedly and sincerely apologise.”
The Commission's inquiry will examine the trustee’s failure to instate safeguarding guidance, the conduct of trustees and staff on social media and other general governance concerns - including financial controls. The inquiry will also inspect unmanaged conflicts of interest, as partners appear to be working together at the charity.
Dar ul Uloom Islamia Rizwia (Bralawai) has six trustees, none of which received remuneration for their role in 2019 or 2018, the charity’s annual report reads. The annual report for 2020-21 is currently 318 days overdue.
In 2019 its income was £472,340 while its expenditure was £259,810. The Commission has used its legal powers to compel trustees to improve the administration and management of the charity while the statutory inquiry is underway.
Civil Society News contacted Dar ul Uloom Islamia Rizwia (Bralawai) for a statement, but did not receive a response.