The Jewish community has reacted with horror at news that the head of Britain’s biggest Muslim charity labelled Jews the “grandchildren of monkeys and pigs”.
Heshmat Khalifa resigned from Islamic Relief Worldwide (IRW) following the discovery of Facebook posts with virulent antisemitic slurs, revealed by The Times.
A former trustee and director of the charity, which has almost an £600m income including from the UN and British taxes, Khalifa called Palestinian terror group Hamas “the purest resistance movement in modern history”, and that labelling its armed wing a terror group was “shameful disgrace to all Muslims”. The former charity boss also said Egypt’s president was a “Zionist pimp”.
Islamic Relief Worldwide issued a statement confirming his resignation, saying: ‘We are sorry to say that posts on Mr Khalifa’s personal social media account in 2014 and 2015, which IRW was first made aware of on 16 July 2020, contravene the values and principles of Islamic Relief Worldwide. Islamic Relief Worldwide sincerely regrets any offence caused.”
The charity added: “Khalifa has acknowledged that these posts were unacceptable and has apologised for falling short of the strict standards expected by our code of conduct.”
It also said it rejects and condemns “terrorism and believes all forms of discrimination – including antisemitism – are unacceptable.”
Mark Gardner of the Community Security Trust said:”“CST welcomes the quick removal of Heshmat Khalifa, but we question how many people had seen and approved the comments, or at least failed to challenge them.”
A Jewish Leadership Council spokesperson told Jewish News: “The comments made by Mr Khalifa have no place in any charitable organisation and it is right that he has resigned immediately. Islamic Relief has been the recipient of Department of International Development grants and, like all registered charities, benefits from taxpayer support through the Gift Aid scheme.
British taxpayers therefore rightly expect that those who run charities do not use their platform to promote views which run counter to British values.”
A Board of Deputies spokesperson said: “Mr Khalifa ought to be ashamed of these disgraceful racist comments, which attempt to pit two minorities against each other. Muslims and Jews must unite to fight racism together, rather than propagate lies about each other.”
Stephen Silverman, director of investigations and enforcement at Campaign Against Antisemitism, said: “It is appalling that Mr Khalifa was able to lead for so long one of Britain’s largest charities whilst expressing brazenly antisemitic views. Islamic Relief has questions to answer about how this went unnoticed. We hope that the Charity Commission will now act to ban him from acting as a charity trustee ever again.”
Fiyaz Mughal, Founder of Muslims Against Antisemitism, said: “This shows why more Muslims must work to reduce antisemitism within some small but determined sections of co-religionists. This is coming up time and time again, and that is why Muslims Against Antisemitism works on informing fellow Muslims around the Holocaust, the use of language and in challenging the more ideologically driven antisemites. Such hate must have no space in any community”.
A Charity Commission spokesperson said: “Antisemitic and racist comments are abhorrent and have no place in charity. We have opened a compliance case and contacted the charity for a response to these serious allegations. The charity is cooperating with our continuing enquiries and we have been informed that the individual has resigned as a trustee.”