On November 4, the British charity regulator, the Charity Commission, published a report of its inquiry into the Islamic Education and Research Academy (iERA), a British Salafist group and religious training organisation. The inquiry was initially welcomed by moderate Muslim groups and counter-extremism analysts, but many will be disappointed with the Charity Commission's recommendations.
More than a dozen pieces have been written for the Gatestone Institute examining the iERA's links to extremism, as well as the failure of government, media and even Jewish organisations to tackle this fast-growing Salafist group. In 2014, one of these articles exclusively revealed that the "Portsmouth Five," a notorious group of ISIS recruits from southern England, were all members of an iERA youth group.
In 2014, the Council of Ex-Muslims of Britain published their own comprehensive report, which looked even more closely at the officials, preachers and extremist links of the iERA. In the wake of significant media coverage, the Charity Commission launched their investigation. The "inquiry's scope," the Charity Commission claims, was to look at the iERA's extremist links, as well as its "financial management."
There was no shortage of evidence. The head of the iERA, Abdur Raheem Green, is a former jihadist who warns Muslims of a Jewish "stench," encourages the death penalty as a "suitable and effective" punishment for homosexuality and adultery, and has ruled that wife-beating "is allowed."
Other iERA officials have included Zakir Naik, an Islamic preacher whose NGO has just been raided and designated "unlawful" by Indian law enforcement; and Abdullah Hakim Quick, who has called upon God to "clean and purify al-Aqsa from the filth of the Yahood [Jews]" and "clean all of the lands from the filth of the Kuffar [non-believers]."
In its report, the Charity Commission makes note of the iERA's promotion of hate preachers, but -- as it has done in the past -- treats the charity as a victim of such extremism, rather than an instigator. According to the Commission, bureaucracy is the solution: the iERA's extremism will be solved by more "adequate procedures... to prevent abuse of the charity, its status, facilities or assets." External speakers, the Charity Commission advises, should "sign the charity's Anti-Extremism, Data Protection and Equal Opportunities disclaimers." The iERA, concludes the Charity Commission, should produce "risk assessments" for all events and put in place an effective "counter-extremism policy."
Those more familiar with the iERA will know that asking this Salafist charity to produce and follow its own counter-extremism plan is akin to demanding that the Ku Klux Klan introduce affirmative action hiring processes. But such demands make sense to civil servants in London, who adhere to the government line that because British Islam is inherently good, any real examples of extremism can only be the work of corrupting outside influences.
Counter-extremism analysts have seen such blindness from the Charity Commission before. In 2013, the Charity Commission reported on the offices of an unnamed charity:
"We visited the charity's premises and saw images of the leader of the group that is a proscribed terrorist organisation were displayed on the walls of the charity's offices. We also identified that the charity had organised marches at which supporters of the proscribed organisation were present."
Was this charity, evidently dedicated to the support of a banned terrorist organisation, shut down? No. Instead, the Charity Commission decided to "instruct the trustees to develop and implement robust controls to manage the charity's activities and the use of its premises."
Also in 2013, the Charity Commission opened an investigation into International Islamic Link, a taxpayer-funded Shi'ite charity that previously described itself as "the office of ... Ayatullah Nasir Makarem Shirazi." Aytollah Shirazi is one of the Iranian's regime most hardline clerics. He is known for issuing a fatwa for the murder of Iranian pro-democracy activist Roozbeh Farahanipour. He is also known for his unwavering commitment to Holocaust denial and his support for killing adulterers and homosexuals.
Once the Charity Commission opened an investigation into International Islamic Link, the organisation told the Charity Commission that they had no link with this Iranian cleric. Nevertheless, the Charity Commission, despite clear evidence to the contrary, declared that they were "satisfied" with the charity's response.
The Charity Commission treats the claims made by trustees of extremist charities as irrevocable truth, and responds to evidence of extremism merely by urging more stringent bureaucratic oversight.
In 2014, Gatestone Institute published information about the Islamic Network. This extremist group's website advocated the murder of apostates, encouraged Muslims to hate non-Muslims and claimed "The Jews scheme and crave after possessing the Muslim lands, as well as the lands of others." After investigating the charity, the Charity Commission decided to give the Islamic Network booklets titled, "How to manage risks in your charity."
The recent Charity Commission whitewash into the iERA is just one more example of a weak, ineffective charity regulator. Extremist charities are not private institutions: charitable status affords extraordinary legal and financial benefits, including the opportunity for radical Islamist organisations to claim government subsidies through a "tax-back" scheme named Gift Aid. Although the iERA's accounts do not mention the amount if receives from the Gift Aid program, the group encourages donors to "consent yes to gift aid."
If a private organisation wishes to promote non-violent, bigoted Islamist ideology, then a free society should allow them to do so. But no government should allow extremist networks to exploit charitable status. Shut these charities down, and ban those Islamist activists from ever again becoming trustees of a charitable organisation.