Muslim Charities Forum contests withdrawal of funding from Department of communities and local Government

27th Feb 2015

Hamed Chapman

The Muslim Charities Forum (MCF) is threatening to sue the Government for arbitrarily withdrawing funding for a Faith Minorities in Action project following unfounded allegations made in the Daily Telegraph newspaper.

Their solicitors have written to the Department of communities and local Government for the sudden decision to end the funding to be reopened and for MCF to be permitted to put in a full response to allegations, including most that had never been raised until they were used as reasons to cut the funding.

“MCF does consider that its rights have been gravely infringed in a manner that is hugely detrimental to its reputation and work. Therefore, it is duty bound as a charity to be mindful of the legal avenues open to it,” Bates Wells & Braithwaite, solicitors for MCF wrote to Pickles.

In response, Director of Integration and Community Rights, Sarah Benioff, insisted that the reasons for the termination had been clearly set out and that the decision to do so remained the same, according to a copy of the letter dated February 5 obtained by The Muslim News.

But she offered some hope of a reversal saying that if the Forum wished to submit further information or make representations in relation to the grounds for withdrawing funding “this would be put to Ministers for consideration.”

MCF Executive Director, Abdurahman Sharif, said the charity regarded Pickles as a “good friend of Faith Communities” who has worked very hard throughout his term in office to promote integration and tackle all forms of religious prejudice.

But they were “extremely disappointed” at the decision by his department to discontinue its support for FMIA. The project, he told The Muslim News, was “about bringing people together to build trust between communities across the country. This vital work has now ceased on the basis of unsubstantiated allegations.”

Funding for confidence building and awareness workshops and a training programme for faith practitioners was due to be renewed for a second year last month. But out of the blue on September 29, 2014, MCF received a letter from Benioff citing a number of allegations made six days earlier in a Daily Telegraph article and requested clarifications.

In a six-page reply, Sharif meticulously answered three numbered questions confirming that neither staff nor trustees of MCF and of member organisations had any connections to the Muslim Brotherhood, the Union of Good, Hamas or any other proscribed group. A four-page annex was added to the letter listing the attendees of all events held by MCF over the past four years to highlight there had been no so-called extremist speakers.

Sharif, who was operations manager at the time, also addressed an unnumbered question relating to the fact that all MCF members being registered with the Charity Commission would abide by charity law to “avoid undertaking activities that may place their funds, assets and reputation at undue risk.”

In separately tacking issues with the Daily Telegraph, the paper eventually published a correction on October 4 claiming it was an “editing error” it had made but was “happy” to make clear that the Muslim Charities Forum is “not extremist and abides by the principles of democracy and interfaith tolerance.”

There was no response from the DCLG for more than two months when it coincided with a written Parliamentary statement by Pickles on December 18, claiming seemingly without any previous advice or consultations, that a “formal review” of the project had been carried out.

“Following a formal review of the project, which included examination of allegations made in the press, and of the organisation’s continued poor performance in delivering against agreed objectives, I have taken the decision to terminate its funding,” the statement said.

But in an interview with The Muslim News, Sharif said that “no performance issues were ever raised” until the sudden statement. “We should have, as a matter of fairness, been given the opportunity to respond to the reasons cited for terminating the funding.”

The MCF was also accused of having “failed to reassure us (DCLG) that they have robust measures in place to investigate and challenge their members”. But their solicitors said this was never a question that was put to the Forum in September.

Unspecified concerns were also raised about events held by member organisations, at which individuals with alleged extremist views were invited to speak but again none had previously been made clear who they were supposed to concern.

“It is wholly disproportionate, unjustified and smacks of a pre-determined answer to draw adverse conclusions from answers which were overwhelmingly positive. If they were not positive, it was incumbent on DCLG to state that they were not and why,” Bates Wells & Braithwaite said.

“The Secretary of State’s reliance on the Telegraph article in order to come to his decision to terminate the Agreement is particularly egregious. The starting point in considering the Telegraph article is that the sources it cites as the basis for its allegations are not uncontentious, universally recognised as reliable or representative of high standards of journalistic or investigative endeavour,” it added.

MCF said that its rights have been “gravely infringed” in a manner that is hugely detrimental to its reputation and work. “As a charity, we are duty bound to be mindful of the legal avenues opened to us,” Sharif insisted.

2 Responses to “Muslim Charities Forum contests withdrawal of funding from Department of communities and local Government”

Ian Barnettt.March 5, 2015

Seems to me good housekeeping and a step in the right direction. I mean stopping the ‘charities’, I do not mean suing the government. Seems like a waste of pen and ink! You may however qualify for free court fees as muslims are cute and seem to know all the benefit tricks. Problem is though, you will need to find 5 to 10 muslim High Court/Supreme Court Judges otherwise no chance!

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jane kellyMarch 18, 2015

Surely you should sue the newspaper if they were incorrect, not the government

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