We must stop charities promoting antisemitism

Posted: Tue, 17th Oct 2023 by Megan Manson

Christopher Penler, Shutterstock

The horrific attack on Israel by Islamist terrorists Hamas, and Israel's subsequent response, have unleashed unprecedented antisemitism on our streets.

Antisemitic incidents in the UK have more than quadrupled since October 7th, according to the Community Security Trust. They have included assaults, vandalism and abusive behaviour.

Perhaps most shocking of all, three Jewish schools decided to close for the day last week, over security fears relating to pro-Palestine protests. Their fears were not unfounded. It has since emerged that two Jewish schools have been vandalised with red paint.

That children have been forced out of school because of the threat of racist attacks is a national disgrace.

It is deplorable that anti-Muslim incidents have also increased. But according to the deputy assistant commissioner for the Metropolitan Police, this increase is "nothing like the scale of the increase in antisemitism".

This sudden flare up of antisemitism didn't come from nowhere. Antisemites weren't created overnight when Hamas attacked Israel. What we're seeing is the emboldening of those who have been harbouring hatred of Jews for years.

Worst of all, UK charities have had a hand in this. Specifically, charities getting away with promoting antisemitism under the charitable purpose of 'the advancement of religion'.

They include Islamic Research Foundation International (IRFI), an organisation which registered as a charity in 2007 and financed an Islamic TV channel called Peace TV. In 2016 Peace TV was fined by broadcast regulator Ofcom after a speaker on one of its shows described Jews as "like a cancer", "evil genius" and "cursed people".

Thankfully, IRFI was shut down last year after multiple complaints to the Charity Commission, including from the NSS – over ten years after it was registered.

But charities which are shut down after promoting antisemitism are few and far between. Most appear to continue with impunity.

They include Miftahul Jannah Academy, which published sermons on its website by Islamic scholar Muhammad Patel describing Jews as having "dirty" qualities and saying Allah turned some Jews into "apes and monkeys and pigs" because Allah is "angry" with them. Patel also preached at Walthamstow Central Mosque, run by the charity Masjid-E-Umer Trust. While these lectures disappeared from the web after the NSS complained to the Charity Commission, both charities are still operating and it's not clear what sanctions, if any, they have received.

Then there's Islamic Centre Leicester, which hosted a sermon uploaded to YouTube a few months ago saying Jews have "greed of long life" because they fear punishment in the afterlife. Again, the content was removed after the NSS told the regulators, but no further action appears to have been taken – even though this is the second time the NSS has registered concerns about extremism at this charity.

Most bizarre of all is the case of Cricklewood Muslim Youth Trust (CMYT). In 2021, the Campaign Against Antisemitism lodged a complaint with the Charity Commission after CMYT tweeted an image warning Muslims to "Keep away from the enemies of Allaah the Jews & Christians".

It turned out that CMYT wasn't a registered charity at the time of the complaint. But what is shocking is the Charity Commission's response, which was to tell CMYT to register as a charity. That's right – the commission opened the door for an antisemitic organisation to get the tax relief and 'seal of approval' which comes with registered charity status.

Unsurprisingly, the Charity Commission was reluctant to disclose this when the NSS asked about it. It only did so once the NSS got the Information Commissioner's Office involved. The Charity Commission said it initially refused to answer because the information could "lead to negative perceptions of charities". Indeed.

It shouldn't surprise us that these charities have promoted other forms of extremism alongside antisemitism. Peace TV was additionally fined by Ofcom for shows condoning the execution of apostates from Islam. Other lectures published by Miftahul Jannah praised the Taliban and said Muslims should help Islamic nations which want to fight to buy machine guns. Islamic Centre Leicester has repeatedly suggested the punishment for apostates and 'blasphemers' is death. And CMYT said on its YouTube account that "protests, debates, free society and democracy" are all prohibited in Islam.

Antisemitism, jihadism and the rejection of liberal values all flow from the same place: a fundamentalist and supremacist interpretation of the Islamic religion.

This is where the problem lies. "The advancement of religion" is a recognised charitable purpose, which means an organisation can register as a charity simply by promoting religion – even, it seems, if that religion is at odds with equality, community cohesion and the duty on charities to provide a public benefit. All the above charities are registered under "the advancement of religion", and regulators are seemingly powerless to put a meaningful end to their extremism. When a regulator's reaction to a complaint about antisemitism is to tell the perpetrator to get registered, you know there's a problem.

That's why "the advancement of religion" needs to be removed from the list of charitable purposes. This won't stop religious charities which do genuine good from registering, as their activities will be covered by a different charity purpose. But it will help put an end to charities advancing religions that spread antisemitism and other forms of extremism. And recent incidents demonstrate we need to end this now more than ever.

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Tags: Charity