ITV’s documentary on “charities behaving badly” was political propaganda pushing for the Charity Commission to gain more powers, cleverly targeted towards Muslim charities, writes Dilly Hussain.
There is no such thing as “impartial news” – I was told this in my first news writing class when studying for my NCTJ. After accepting this realisation, I have always mentioned this in articles and lectures on the subject of media. In the UK, and broadly speaking the West, where the ‘free press’ claims to educate and inform the masses, and to account those in power, the mainstream media is increasingly becoming a tool of the government to push a particular agenda or legislation. This is something you would expect from a state run TV channel under a dictatorship, but the covert manner in which it is being implemented in the UK does not fool anyone – especially the Muslim community.
On Wednesday, ITV broadcasted a documentary entitled, ‘Exposure: Charities Behaving Badly’, which revealed how three registered charities were abusing their status by “breeding extremism”. I’m assuming that for the sake of impartiality, ITV included a white supremacist (The Steadfast Trust), radical Hindu (HSS UK), and a Syria-linked Muslim (Global Aid Trust) charity. But as expected, in light of the ongoing war on terror where Islam continues to be demonised, it was the Muslim charity, Global Aid Trust, which was ‘singled out’.
Let me explain how…
On the day of the of ITV documentary, The Telegraph, London Evening Standard, Independent and The Guardian published articles about Global Aid Trust (GAT), and its alleged links to extremism. In particular, they focussed on the resignation of the charity’s CEO, Rizwan Hussain, who is a well-known TV presenter, as well as Imran ibn Mansur aka “Dawah Man” – a popular YouTuber who was accused of making anti-Semitic remarks, and encouraging Muslims to fight jihad in Syria.
In comparison, Steadfast Trust and HSS received minimal coverage prior to the documentary being aired in comparison to GAT, but it makes sense because Muslim-related stories are guaranteed to make great headlines.
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Imran ibn Mansur, Syria and jihad
One of the controversies surrounding Mansur was his comments regarding Syria and jihad, which he made to an undercover reporter acting as a GAT volunteer. When the reporter probed Mansur about “wanting to do more for Syria”, at no point did he advise him to go fight. Rather, he gave glad tidings to those who were able to help financially, medically or by merely praying for the oppressed Syrians.
Mansur also expressed how young British Muslims, including himself, going to Syria to fight would cause more harm than good, but that’s beside the point.
The underlying issue here is the all-too-common trick of taking statements in isolation, and out of context with a political spin that Muslims have become very familiar with.
Conflating anti-Zionism with anti-Semitism
The second contention with Mansur was his comments at a GAT fundraising event regarding Zionism, and the state of Israel bankrolling and instigating wars against Muslim countries. I did not recall Mansur making any reference to Jews. However, he did mention the “children of Israel” who according to him were humiliating the Muslims, but this was used in a theological context.
Mansur was the only individual during the whole documentary who spoke to ITV reporter, Mark Austin, by inviting him into his house. Austin accused (not questioned) Mansur of encouraging Muslims to go fight in Syria, and making anti-Semitic comments.
Again, Mansur clarified these accusations by explaining that what he meant by physical help was to go and assist as an aid worker, nurse or doctor. He also explained to Austin that anti-Zionism and anti-Semitism are entirely different things, but this was unacceptable for Austin who was adamant that his statements were anti-Semitic.
The same applied to the former CEO of GAT, Rizwan Hussain, who described the Israelis that control the tunnels as Jewish gangsters.
But why would we be surprised with this attitude from an ITV presenter, when the UK government is a staunch ally of Israel, and is currently trying to silence any criticism of the Zionist entity by equating it with anti-Semitism?
Why did the documentary end with the Muslim charity?
Only the editorial decision makers at ITV know why they chose to conclude the documentary with GAT, knowing full well that most viewers would remember the end. Also, Steadfast Trust and HSS’ views and actions surpassed that of GAT by a country mile. Yes, one of the GAT volunteers praised Anwar Al Awlaki, whilst a Steadfast trustee talked about possibly burning mosques, and HSS spouting clear hatred towards Muslims and Christians.
It was clearly a strategic and intentional ploy to leave the viewers’ concluding thoughts on Muslims, in light of ongoing events with ISIS and the ever increasing fallacy that the Muslim community is a potential security threat.
Charity Commission Bill amendments
The real agenda behind ITV’s documentary was to push for the Charity Commission to obtain more arbitrary powers. Specifically, an amendment that has been put forward in the Charity Commission Bill which would allow the regulatory body to close down any charity it deems to be extreme or unfit for purpose.
No doubt, Muslim charities will be the main targets, especially those linked to Syria and Gaza, as well as mosques who will be pressured to ban speakers, and avoid political topics under the new Counter-Terrorism and Security Act.
More than a quarter of the statutory investigations that have been launched by the Charity Commission since April 2012 have targeted Muslim organisations.
A freedom of information request by The Guardian showed that more than 20 of the 76 ongoing investigations focus on Muslim charities associated with running mosques, providing humanitarian relief and aid efforts in Syria.
It’s also important to note that Michelle Russell, the Charity Commission’s Head of Investigations and Enforcement, stated at the end of the documentary that they do not have the power to shut a charity down. If that is the case, how did the Charity Commission remove the Steadfast Trust’s charity status, and put HSS and GAT under statuary investigation? This appears to be a clear violation of charity laws.
At a time where Islamophobia is on the rise in Europe, and British Muslims feel suffocated with anti-terror laws which indiscriminately target normative Islamic beliefs under the guise of tackling “extremism”, documentaries such as ITV’s ‘expose’ demonstrates how there is minimal hope in the mainstream media to account the McCarthyist policies of the government.
5Pillars have invited ITV and Mark Austin to respond to this article by clarifying their definition of anti-Semitism.