Muslim Charities Criticise Conservative Party For Scrapping Event
The debate was cancelled at the last minute by Conservative party organisers, Muslim leaders said. Some blamed a Daily Telegraph article claiming some of the charities have ties to terrorist organisations.
The leaders of several British Muslim charities are outraged that an event they were scheduled to hold at the Conservative party conference was cancelled suddenly this week.
Organisations including the Muslim Charities Forum (MCF) attacked the party after it called off a debate scheduled for Tuesday about the challenges facing Islamic organisations working in the third sector.
The MCF, an umbrella organisation that represents some of the UK's largest Muslim charities, planned to hold an event called "Faith and British Values: The Muslim Charities Question".
The debate was to feature the aid organisation Human Appeal, which receives a large amount of funding from the UN world food programme, and a number of speakers including the Conservative Muslim peer Baroness Mobarik, journalist Peter Oborne, and Sir Stephen Bubb, chief executive of the Association of Chief Executives of Voluntary Organisations (Acevo).
However, the MCF told BuzzFeed News that the event was cancelled on Sunday, hours before the conference was due to begin, without any notice from the conference organisers.
Mohammed Shakir, a spokesperson for the MCF, told BuzzFeed News that he believes that an article written on the Telegraph website on Sunday, accusing the group of having connections with terrorist organisations in the Middle East, prompted the last-minute decision. He said the claims in the article are false.
"We weren't told by the Conservative party. We spent the whole of Sunday asking them without hearing anything until Sunday evening. When we asked why it was cancelled, they did not give any explanation, only saying that they reserved the right to cancel events at any time," said Shakir.
The Telegraph article claimed that Human Appeal had hosted events featuring "hate preachers" and that it was banned from using publicly owned property by the Department for Education's counter-extremism unit.
The article also claimed that the MCF had close links with Hamas, and that as a result of an investigation by the Telegraph, the charity had lost its £250,000 funding from the Department of Communities and Local Government.
DCLG confirmed to BuzzFeed News that the MCF had lost this grant on the grounds that it did not have "confidence in the ability of the MCF to deliver its aims or effectively oversee its member organisations given its continued poor project performance and inadequate governance structures."
Both the MCF and Human Appeal told us they rejected the claims made by the Telegraph.
"We deny the accusations made in the article. None of the organisations we work with are connected to Hamas or other terrorist organisations, and all the groups we work with are registered by the Charity Commission," Shakir said.
"We leave it to the Charity Commission to vet charities because we are not regulators," he added.
The MCF has held and participated in a number of fringe events at political party conferences this year, talking about the challenges Muslim charities face, both in the UK and working on the ground in conflict and disaster zones
Human Appeal also denied the allegations made in the article, claiming that it had referenced a branch of the charity that is based in the United Arab Emirates.
"It's a totally different and separate organisation than the one in the UK," Charlotte Morris, a spokesperson for Human Appeal, told BuzzFeed News.
Conservative peer Baroness Warsi was among the high-profile figures to criticise the Conservatives' decision to cancel the event.
Warsi, who quit the party as Foreign Office minister during the Gaza War in 2014, said there was an "agenda" against certain Muslim organisations.
"There is a deeply disturbing agenda among sections of the media and some politicians which is attempting to discredit almost every Muslim organisation and individual who puts their head above the parapet," she told The Independent.
"In doing so it further disengages and alienates a community of over 3 million people. There are real challenges that the British Muslim community faces but these cannot be resolved if we continue with these policies of disengagement and disempowerment. Dangerous games are being played here."
In a statement, Acevo chief executive Sir Stephen Bubb said: "The decision by Conservative party organisers to cancel an important debate on the role of Muslim charities in our country is astonishing.
"In the fight against terrorism to ignore any engagement is to fight with one hand tied behind the back. We need to support Muslim charities' role in community leadership against extremism, not reject them."
The Conservative party did not return BuzzFeed News' multiple requests for comment.