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Muslim charities unfairly targeted over extremism in UK

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Close scrutiny of humanitarian NGOs over suspected links to terrorism makes Muslims feel there’s no place for them in modern Britain

Last year September, Muslim Charities Forum (MCF), an umbrella organisation for 10 UK-based Muslim-led international NGOs – including Islamic Relief, Islamic Help and Muslim Hands – was dealt a devastating blow after a newspaper reported some of its well-known members had links to terrorism.

Almost a week later, Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG) told MCF to stop their activies, including a major 8-month scheme to foster integration, for which it had received a £250,000 grant. Organizers say its was hugely disappointing.

Later that year, in December DCLG terminated its funding for the MCF. The organiztion denied any kind of links with terrorism and requested DCLG to reconsider their decision, and they are still in the process. However, MCF is now in a legal limbo, meaning they must lie dormant since their funding is terminated.

More than a quarter of the statutory investigations launched by the Charity Commission since April 2012 have been directed at Muslim charities associated with running mosques, providing humanitarian relief or undertaking aid efforts in Syria.

Furthermore, last week David Cameron revealed his five-year “anti-extremism” plan, which by some is marked as “Islamophobic”. This particular plan can breed further alienation of Muslims from the rest of UK society.

Samir Al-Haidari, director of the AhlulBayt Islamic Mission (Aim), a prominent grassroots organisation, believes the funding cut for a faith project risks turning young Muslims against society. “The majority of Muslims want to affiliate with this country, and they will need support to help develop and prosper as a community. When these kind of cases arise, it slows down the progress and we lose people on the fringes of those communities who turn towards extremism,” he says.

Ben Jackson, chief executive of Bond, a membership body for organisations working in international development, says: “We completely understand the need for vigilance in terms of funds going to people who directly or indirectly support terrorism, but we do see it the targeting of charities as a wider pattern of unevidenced assertions around fears of what might be happening.”

In the UK, charities remain some of the biggest and most important Muslim institutions, over the last 20 years, they have grown rapidly.

MCF’s problems started after Daily Telegraph groundlessly accussed them and a number of other Muslim charity organisations in having connections to the Union of Good, a global coalition of over 50 charities that was designated a terrorist organisation by the US in 2008 for its ties to the Palestinian group, Hamas. However, Daily Telefraph’s accusations were proven wrong.

The MCF was at the forefront of the government’s broader strategy to counter extremism through closer work with communities. It led the Faith Minorities in Action project, a government initiative that started early last year to promote integration through training young people and interfaith work. Until it was told to halt work, the MCF had held nine consultations in six cities across England to establish the key challenges facing faith communities.

But new counter-terrorism laws erode civil liberties and political freedoms. Shaista Gohir, chair of Muslim Women’s Network UK, says: “Policies and government strategies are now targeting law-abiding Muslims and organisations, so Muslims are worried. What excuse will be used to target us next?”

Muslims say that the new law can be interpreted too widely, “anyone can be an extremist right now” according to the ambiguous language of the law. They are very upset with current situation since any Muslim can be seen as a suspect.

Sir Stephen Bubb, chief executive of Acevo, which represents charity chief executives in the UK, said that communities should be drawn together to fight extremism, however instead authorities made their best allies in this struggle feel “not valued or wanted”.

Resource: World Bulletin, July 22, 2015

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