Two British Muslim charity bosses have been refused entry to Israel for “security reasons,” despite being invited by an Israeli charity and despite one of the men having been awarded an OBE for his interfaith work.

Maqsood Ahmed and Irfan Khan, two leaders of the international Muslim Hands charity, were held in cells at Ben-Gurion Airport overnight before being turned away by Israel’s internal security service Shin Bet on Friday.

They had been invited by The Abraham Fund Initiatives (TAFI) for a three-day programme of events, including lessons where Jewish students were to learn Arabic, and Arab students were to learn Hebrew.

The incident, reported by Ha’aretz, was queried by TAFI directors, who said they had consulted the Israeli foreign ministry’s European department beforehand, and told there were no problems. They added that they had never before had guests barred.

TAFI chief executive Amnon Be’eri-Sulitzeanu said the trip had been the culmination of a sensitive year-long dialogue between the two groups, but that Ahmed – who received an OBE from The Queen – had now promised not to return to Israel, after his treatment.

“With great courage, committing themselves to dealing with criticism from the growing number of organisations who boycott Israel, Muslim Hands accepted our invitation to come visit Israel and to see how we are building a shared Arab-Jewish society,” said Be’eri-Sulitzeanu.