In February, Britain's largest Jewish newspaper, the Jewish Chronicle disclosed that Yitzchak Schochet, a Rabbi in North London, was removed as patron of an interfaith charity because "the government believed he was too extreme." It reported:
"According to a source close to the charity, the decision was taken after the Department for Communities and Local Government threatened to remove funding for other groups run by the charity's head."
Rabbi Schochet has undoubtedly made some troubling comments. In January, after the Islamist terror attacks in Paris, he stated that the staff of Charlie Hebdo "committed a sin against society," and that, "Any sensitive human being who cares about the rights of another will find these cartoons abhorrent." Islamist media outlets have condemned a tweet sent by Schochet, in which he told an anti-Israel activist: "I have a spare Israeli flag if you want to hang yourself on it."
This point about this episode, however, is not Schochet's remarks, but that the Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG) censured an interfaith charity because of its choice of members. What other interfaith groups does the DCLG fund?
The Christian-Muslim Forum, for instance, is an interfaith charity based in London founded by Justin Welby, who is now the Archbishop of Canterbury. The Christian-Muslim Forum is mostly taxpayer funded. In 2012, for instance, it received £83,225 (out of its total income of £127,993) from the "Near Neighbours" scheme -- a grant program financed by the DCLG.
The Christian-Muslim Forum's "presidents and trustees" have included:
Ibrahim Mogra, the assistant general secretary of the Muslim Council of Britain, a lobbying organization established by activists from the Muslim Brotherhood and its South Asian cousin, Jamaat-e-Islami. In 2009, the British government claimed to have severed links with the Council after its Secretary-General signed the Istanbul Declaration, a document that called for attacks on British troops and Jewish communities.
Although President of a taxpayer-funded interfaith organization, in 2006, Islamic paper The Muslim Weekly reported that Ibrahim Mogra refused to share a platform with a Muslim from the Ahmadi sect, which Islamist movements revile as heretical. Mogra did not, however, seem to mind sharing the same platform with Azzam Tamimi, a "special envoy" for the terror group Hamas. In 2004, Tamimi told the BBC that he would become a suicide bomber if he "had the opportunity."
Toufik Kacimi, chairman of the Muslim Welfare House, which the Muslim counter-extremist think-tank Quilliam Foundation claims is a key institution of the Muslim Brotherhood in the UK. The Muslim Welfare House was founded by Kemal Helbawi, an outspoken supporter of Osama Bin Laden. Helbawi describes the Israel-Palestinian conflict as "an absolute clash of civilisations; a satanic programme led by the Jews and those who support them, and a divine programme carried [out] by Hamas ... and the Islamic peoples in general."
Further, Toufik Kacimi was formerly a manager at the Human Relief Foundation, an Islamic charity named by the leading Middle Eastern newspaper Gulf News as a key part of Hamas' network of charitable support in the UK.
Mohammad Saeed Bahmanpour, who runs the Islamic College for Advanced Studies, a Shi'ite college in London. The college also includes a religious school, known as Hawza Ilmiyya, at which Bahmanpour teaches. In 2006, The Times reported that students were being taught fundamentalist doctrines that described non-Muslims as "filth".
Also in 2006, Bahmanpour signed a document that called upon Muslims in Iraq – then occupied by Western military forces – to avoid sectarian conflict and instead "fulfil their religious duty to struggle in defence of the oppressed against the oppressor." In 2007, Bahmanpour declared, at a rally in support of the Iranian regime, that, "If you say that Hamas is a terrorist organisation, we want to declare here, now and today that we are all Hamas, we are all Hizbullah."
Ataullah Siddiqui, an official of the Islamic Foundation, which publishes radical tracts of the Islamist group Jamaat-e-Islami. In 2003, The Times reported that two of the Islamic Foundation's trustees were on the UN sanctions list of people associated with the Taliban and al-Qaeda. The Islamic Foundation's current chairman, Khurshid Ahmad, is also the vice-president of the Pakistani branch of Jamaat-e-Islami, a violent Islamist group that committed acts of genocide during the 1971 Independence War in Bangladesh. Pakistan's other political parties accuse Jamaat-e-Islami of connections to terrorist organizations, such as Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan.
The Christian-Muslim Forum is not the only interfaith organization with extremist connections that has received taxpayer funds from the DCLG.
The Inter Faith Network for the United Kingdom, for example, is a coalition of religious organizations from across the country, which contains a number of Islamist groups belonging to the Muslim Brotherhood and Jamaat-e-Islami.
The Inter Faith Network's own management committee includes Ayub Laher, a scholar who belongs to Jamiat Ulama-e-Britain, a branch of a worldwide Deobandi group that, The Times reports, is "directly affiliated" with Pakistani seminaries that have close ties to the Taliban.
In addition, from 2011-2012, the co-chairman of the Inter Faith Network was Dr. Manazir Ahsan, a leading British Islamist who organized riots in the UK against Salman Rushdie. After Ayatollah Khomeini called for the murder of Salman Rushdie, Manazir Ahsan expressed his support, and said that Khomeini "has expressed the Islamic legal point of view," and "we hope other Islamic governments will confirm this."
In spite of this collaboration with extremist groups and individuals, in 2013, the Department for Communities and Local Government granted £237,500 to the Inter Faith Network.
There are plenty of other examples: London Citizens, which receives tens of thousands of pounds from the government every year, is a coalition of faith groups that include extremist Salafist and Muslim Brotherhood organizations. London Citizen's deputy chairman, until 2014, was Junaid Ahmed, an Islamist activist who described Hamas founder and leader Ahmed Yassin as a "hero" and has said that, "Every single [Palestinian] resistance fighter is an example for all of us to follow."
In 2012, a "cross-Government working group on anti-Muslim hatred" was established in the offices of the DCLG by Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg and Baroness Warsi, the former Minister of State for Faith and Communities. This working group included Muddassar Ahmed, a former member of the Muslim Public Affairs Committee, which the journalist Andrew Gilligan describes as "an extremist and anti-Semitic militant body that is banned from many universities as a hate group." Articles posted on the Muslim Public Affairs Committee's website have claimed the Taliban as a "highly patriotic, pro-Pakistani, anti-Indian regime who will sacrifice their lives in the interests of Pakistan."
The government has claimed Muddassar Ahmed has "dissociated himself" from the Muslim Public Affairs Committee and its "approach" to politics. Andrew Gilligan notes, however, that Ahmed is presently involved with the Newham People's Alliance, a London Islamist group that is lobbying government on behalf of Tablighi Jamaat, an extreme Islamic sect that security officials have named as a recruiting ground for Al Qaeda.
While working out of the DCLG, Ahmed's working group has encouraged the government to collaborate with Muslim Brotherhood groups such as the Muslim Council of Britain and the Cordoba Foundation, as well as organizations such as the Islamic Human Rights Commission, an Islamist body accused of links to the Iranian regime. In 2010, the Islamic Human Rights Commission organised an event featuring Ibrahim Zakzaky, a Nigerian Islamist who has described Jews as "the lowest of creatures on earth... sons of monkeys and pigs".
Why does a Rabbi who makes controversial comments lead to government ultimatums; and yet Islamists who express support for terror seem to be funded and accommodated in the very offices of government?
Fiyaz Mughal, an interfaith and counter-extremism Muslim activist, resigned from the working group in protest at its activities. He explained: "I was deeply concerned about the kinds of groups some of the members had connections with, and some of the groups they were recommending be brought into government. It seemed to me to be a form of entryism, by people with no track record in delivering projects."
What hope is there for moderate Muslim activists if the British government continues to support Islamic extremists?
In 2011, Prime Minister David Cameron declared:
"As evidence emerges about the backgrounds of those convicted of terrorist offences, it is clear that many of them were initially influenced by what some have called 'non-violent extremists', and they then took those radical beliefs to the next level by embracing violence. ... Some organisations that seek to present themselves as a gateway to the Muslim community are showered with public money despite doing little to combat extremism. As others have observed, this is like turning to a right-wing fascist party to fight a violent white supremacist movement."
Then, in 2014, the Home Secretary Theresa May reiterated that the government would not fund or collaborate with extremist groups:
"We have made important changes to the 'Prevent' programme we inherited from the last government. ... There are now strict rules and checks to make sure we do not fund and do not work with people and organisations that do not share British values. And our policy doesn't just focus on violent extremism, it deals with non-violent extremism too."
The activities and partners of the Department for Communities and Local Government openly contradict ministers' claims that the government does not work with extremist groups. British media, politicians, think-tanks and community groups spend inordinate amounts of time discussing the problem of radicalization. Few tangible solutions have been thought up. Instead of threatening interfaith groups about errant rabbis, one easy step, as has been pointed out many times before, would be to stop funding groups that represent the very extremists the British government claims to oppose.