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Islamic Help's Response to Government funding decision

31st December, 2014

Islamic Help was notified by sections of the media today about a Government decision to stop funding for one of our projects promoting social integration. This decision was taken apparently on the grounds that we had invited an individual with alleged extremist views to speak at one of our events.

Islamic Help is surprised, dismayed and angered by the decision to stop funding under the Faith Action Project, which was revealed in a written parliamentary statement by Eric Pickles, Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government. This action is a smear on the good work we have been doing in the UK and overseas since 2003, on our dedicated and hard-working staff and hundreds of volunteers and the tens of thousands of beneficiaries our donors are supporting and have supported over the years.

We would like to stress the following:

(1) As of yet, we have not received any notification from the Department for Communities and Local Government of its decision

(2) The parliamentary statement states: “This decision stems from Islamic Help’s recent invitation to an individual with extremist views to speak at one of their events.”  We have not received any indication, notice or warning from the DCLG, Home Office, Foreign Office, the Charity Commission, or any other Government department that any of our events or speakers could be regarded as extremist in any sense.                                                                                                  

The person in question has not been identified to us or in the statement. This besmirches the reputation and integrity of all those who have taken part in our humanitarian fundraising efforts over the years.

(3) Our events are fundraising occasions to promote humanitarian issues and projects. They are not political platforms or occasions to promote anything other than our humanitarian work. Speakers are vetted to ensure they meet our guidelines. If there are any issues of concern with a particular speaker, the Government should inform us and let us know immediately in the public interest and for us to carry out our own internal investigation.

(4) Since our establishment, our guests and speakers have included HRH The Princess Royal and boxing champion Amir Khan. We have hosted the US Ambassador to Britain at our headquarters in Birmingham; our staff have participated in official visits to the USA at the request of the US government. We have hosted meetings with and we liaise closely with West Midlands Police and the Counter Terrorism Unit who have sought our advice and we have assisted in helping support vulnerable individuals away from extremism.  We have in the recent past taken part in events jointly with the Charity Commission and the Foreign Office in raising awareness of the dangers of extremism and risks associated with the abuse of charities for extremist purposes.

(5) In partnership with others, we have hosted events and gatherings involving the Home Office, the Foreign Office, DfiD, the Charity Commission and indeed the DCLG amongst others. We are registered with the Charity Commission and we promote transparency and honesty and adhere to Charities legislation and guidance as set out by the Commission in accordance with UK Law.

(6) The project in question has been delivering English classes to minorities in the London area. It has been delivering its stated aims i.e. to help promote integration and uphold British values. Some of the students are being helped to progress in full-time and part time work, education and the voluntary sector. The funding in question only led to the charity receiving £1,000 as part of the Government’s own initiative in promoting British values in compatibility with religious values and no questions have been raised against the delivery of the project.  It is concerning that for the sake of £1,000 our reputation has been undermined in a way that shows callous disregard to the hard work done by hundreds of our volunteers both in the UK and abroad. Islamic Help is well known for promoting British identity through the Union Jack being an integral part of our international uniform.

(7) Our work in the local community is unrivalled. Last night we distributed food hampers to elderly and vulnerable residents in our area, irrespective of their race, gender, religion. Today, the day the statement was lodged in Parliament, the project in question was delivering classes in London. We have helped hundreds of young Britons go on deployment to Africa to deliver aid projects, all of them proudly displaying the Union Jack on their clothing.

(8) Recently, we hosted a senior Member of the House of Lords in Tanzania to view our work and delivery. The prominent Lord praised our promotion of inter-faith values and the way our young volunteers were helping improve people’s quality of life while acting as ambassadors for Britain.

(9) In partnership with colleagues, we have presented our work to the Security Minister at the Home Office and last week the Permanent Secretary at the Home Office, at the invitation of the Bahu Trust which is an organisation that established this charity and works tirelessly to challenge terrorism globally. This accusation undermines our collective work in challenging extremism, and puts at risk our reputation and ability to continue our joint work with Government departments, such as the Charity Commision, the Home Office, Foreign Office and indeed the DCLG itself.

These are just a few examples of our inter-faith, inter-communal work that has received praise and admiration from Royals, Government Ministers and representatives of the US government. We utterly refute any accusations of being linked to or of playing any part in promoting extremist views or extremism. We are dismayed by the decision to stop funding for the project in question which is baffling, unjustified and unreasonable.

By its statement and its actions today, the Government has not only contributed to the very atmosphere of ‘Islamophobia’ that it claims to be combating but has harmed its own objective of promoting integration and British values.

We have notified the Charity Commission of today’s development and will be seeking an urgent meeting with the Home Office and DCLG to clarify the situation.

Notes to Editors Islamic Help

Islamic Help is a Birmingham-based UK registered charity with offices in London and across the world that carries out humanitarian relief work and is committed to helping individuals from all walks of life.

Islamic Help is committed to the reduction of poverty and its effects on individuals, communities and societies.

For further information on Islamic Help and its projects please visit www.islamichelp.org.uk or call Mohammed Ilyas, Communications Officer, Islamic Help, Tel 0121 446 5682, E-mail: mohammedilyas@islamichelp.org.uk