The Islamic Centre of England in London, one of Britain’s biggest Shia mosques, has shut its doors after the Charity Commission appointed a non-Muslim interim manager.
The Maida Vale centre – which is affiliated to Iran – has been under investigation by the Charity Commission since a vigil for assassinated Iranian general Qasem Soleimani was held there in 2020.
British officials and Zionist organisations have also called for the centre to be closed down and have targeted it.
On Wednesday a banner on the door of the centre read: “After receiving the concerns of the community and for their safety, we are saddened to inform you that all upcoming programs, including prayers, have been suspended until further notice.”
The message was later removed.
It is not clear why the centre has been shut but 5Pillars has seen a statement on “The Friends of Islamic Centre” WhatsApp group which encouraged trustees not to cooperate with the Charity Commission.
The statement said: “For a long time, the Charity Commission has acted with clear political motivation that is incited by Zionist groups and Islamophobes to interfere and reshape the direction of the Muslim community in the UK. The latest event is the forced appointment of a non-Muslim interim manager at the Islamic Centre of England.
“This is a very concerning development that demonstrates how the state apparatus, not only interferes in Muslim community affairs and forces its own narratives upon us, but also brazenly chooses a non-Muslim to have certain powers over a Muslim institution, with a view to coerce and bully the Muslim community to adhere to the Commission’s world views. It also clearly demonstrates the Commission’s disrespect and indifference to Muslim self-determination and is yet another example of them forcing a state sponsored version of Islam on the Muslim community.
“We, a group of attendees and friends of the Islamic Centre, who have benefited from the services they provide and have been active donors in the past, are appalled by the behaviour of the Charity Commission and condemn in no uncertain terms the latest intrusion on the spirit and determination of our community.
“We demand the immediate withdrawal of the interim manager imposed on our community and for the Charity Commission to cease its politically motivated behaviour that disrespects Muslims and alienates them from their own centres and places of worship. Well documented research shows the marginalisation that Muslims face in this society. In this act of imposing a non-Muslim functionary to dictate what our communities can and cannot do, a new type of systemic racism and Islamophobia has been unleashed by the British state, further marginalising Muslims in their own spaces.
“We, the friends of the Islamic Centre, who worship at and have supported the Centre for many years, urge the management and particularly the trustees to actively resist these attacks, to undo mistakes of the past, and to refuse to engage in an exercise that is designed to undermine the integrity of our community. We call upon the trustees to make it clear to the Charity Commission that the community will not stand for such disrespect and discrimination. We believe a failure from the trustees to make this point clear will have undesirable consequences.”
Founded in 1995, the Islamic Centre of England is run by Ayatollah Ali Khamenei’s representative in the UK, Seyyed Hashem Mousavi, and funded by the Islamic Republic.
Charity Commission inquiry
Two weeks ago the Charity Commission announced that it had appointed an interim manager to the Islamic Centre of England which has been the subject of a statutory inquiry since November 2022 due to “serious governance concerns.”
The centre later received an official warning following two events held at its premises in 2020 that eulogised Major General Qasem Soleimani who was a leader in the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps which is subject to UK sanctions.
The Charity Commission said: “Due to the trustees’ failure to comply with their legal duties and responsibilities and their failure to protect the charity’s assets, the Commission appointed an interim manager to the charity on the 4th May 2023. Emma Moody of Womble Bond Dickinson (UK) LLP, the appointed interim manager, will have all the powers and duties of the charity’s trustees, and is appointed to the exclusion of the current trustees. As part of the appointment, she will conduct a review of the charity’s governance and administration and make recommendations to the Commission based on her findings.”
Charity Commission Chair, Orlando Fraser KC, added: “We need to act robustly where serious concerns about a charity exist, so that the public, and the charity sector itself, can have confidence in what it means to have charitable status.
“The investigators leading this inquiry are assessing all information thoroughly. The appointment of an interim manager will help the Commission ensure the charity’s governance is restored and is improved to a better standard…
“The Commission’s inquiry remains ongoing. It is the Commission’s policy to publish a report upon concluding an inquiry to detail its findings, conclusions, and any regulatory action taken.”
Last week Security Minister Tom Tugendhat described the centre as a “vile threat” against the country. Tugendhat told The Times that the government was “pulling together” to deal with “this vile threat that’s taken over a country and is now threatening ours.”
Tugendhat said that MPs are “absolutely right” to be worried about such “cultural centres” in Britain, adding: “Sadly, the Islamic Centre for England is not alone and the work of the IRGC is not limited to those Iranian proxy organisations.”