Muslim charities are likely to be concerned by comments from the chair of the Charity Commission William Shawcross who said it would take stronger action against charities and trustees involved in terrorism.
Shawcross, who supported the Iraq war, made the comments at the Rathbones Annual Charity Symposium in London. The commission’s new board includes Peter Clarke, former head of the Anti-Terrorist Branch of the Metropolitan Police.
The commission will also step up its work in “tackling the terrorist abuse of charities”, Shawcross said. “The enlisting of charities for terrorist purposes is a terrible inversion of everything charities stand for.”
Shawcross also condemned charities, such as student unions, that invited extremist speakers to attend events. “We put out clear guidance for charities on extremist, controversial speakers,” he said. “It is unacceptable for charities to promote the views of individuals who themselves espouse violence and terrorism. “No preacher of murder should have the protection of freedom of speech or charity law.”
The charity Interpal has on three occasions, following allegations, been the subject of investigations by the Charity Commission for England and Wales. In all three investigations evidence was not found to prove alleged links between Interpal and organisations involved in terrorism.
In 1996 allegations were made against Interpal and its trustees in the Sunday Telegraph. A Charity Commission inquiry found no evidence that donations could not be accounted for or were made for political reasons. Subsequently the Telegraph issued the following apology and retraction.
On August 22, 2003 the United States Department of the Treasury published a list of six individuals and five charities it alleged to have links to Hamas and terrorism. The list included Interpal. The Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control put them all on a list of individuals and organizations with whom United States citizens and permanent residents are prohibited from doing business.
But a few weeks later, after a full investigation, the British Charity Commission cleared Interpal of any illegal activities, finding the US Treasury did not provide evidence to support their allegations, and unfroze its assets. After the Board of Deputies of British Jews repeated this allegation, it was sued by Interpal. The parties settled out of court, with the Board of Deputies making a public apology and posting the statement on its website for 28 days.
And in July 2006 the BBC broadcast a Panorama programme, Faith, Hate and Charity, alleging that Interpal donated funds to voluntary organisations in the Palestinian territories that supported the ideology of Hamas.
After an extended investigation, in February 2009 the Charity Commission report dismissed allegations by Panorama that Interpal was funding organisations involved in terrorism.