Funding awarded for inter-faith work to a charity coalition with alleged ties to terrorist groups has been stopped, Eric Pickles announced today.
The Communities Secretary said umbrella organisation the Muslim Charities Forum had failed to reassure the Government it had robust measures in place to investigate and challenge its members.
It was chosen to run the Faith Minorities in Action project aimed at encouraging integration by tackling youth crime, promoting the role of women and providing child protection training.
Then claims emerged that some of the Islamic charities within the group allegedly had links to the Muslim Brotherhood, Hamas and other terrorist organisations.
At the time a spokesman for the Department for Communities and Local Government, which had reportedly provided a grant of £18,000, insisted it did not fund any organisation involved with violent or non-violent extremism.
But Mr Pickles said after a formal review – including of allegations made in the press and the organisation’s “continued poor performance” in delivering against agreed objectives – he had now taken the decision to terminate its funding.
In a written statement he said: “The Muslim Charities Forum has failed to reassure us that they have robust measures in place to investigate and challenge their members.
“Concerns have also been raised about events held by member organisations, at which individuals with extremist views have been invited to speak.
“This has undermined their work and means they are no longer able to deliver on the Faith Minorities in Action objectives.”
He said his department had also asked Faith Action, which delivers English language training to assist social integration, to stop its funding of Islamic Help as part of its project.
The decision, he explained, stemmed from Islamic Help’s recent invitation to an individual with extremist views to speak at one of their events.
Mr Pickles went on: “I hope this action illustrates our resolve to cease funding any organisation that supports or is linked to individuals who fuel hatred, division and violence.
“We will fund only those programmes and organisations that actively encourage integration and uphold fundamental British values.
“We are committed to confronting and challenging extremism in all its forms, tackling the violence and hatred that seeks to create division. We are championing what unites our country across class, colour and creed.”
He added that the department would soon launch a new call for applications from organisations able to work in collaboration with faith groups and to deliver effective support.
“We are determined that faith institutions should have the support they require to carry out their vital work,” he said.
“Faith institutions play a key role in communities. They provide support and moral leadership and a sense of community all around the country.
“Well-run collaborative faith institutions can provide a bulwark against extremism by providing a local source of identity, a place to temper views through discussion, and a first point of call for concerns individuals may have.”
A spokesman for the Muslim Charities Forum (MCF) said it was extremely disappointed at the Government’s decision to discontinue its support for the project and rejected the basis on which it had been made.
It was now considering all options available to contest both the decision and allegations, he added.
He went on: “The MCF is committed to creating an integrated Muslim charitable network in the UK and to building partnerships which have been a key part of its work since its inception.
“The Faith Minorities in Action project worked across six cities across England with representatives from over 10 major and minor world faiths.
“It had completed a consultation phase across all these faiths and had identified several barriers to integration which the project was primed to address in the coming months.
“The Faith Minorities in Action Project is about bringing people together to build trust between communities across the country. It is now likely that this vital work will cease on the basis of unsubstantiated allegations.
“We will continue to foster co-operation and positive relationships between Muslim charities and other faith and community groups.
“We have responded to the Department for Communities and Local Government to reassure them of our processes, the vital importance of the work we do, and of the Faith Minorities in Action project.”