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S/F: Inter Faith Network says Michael Gove’s call for it to expel Hassan Joudi, a trustee, would sow ‘divisions’ for its 500 member organisations
schedule for tomorrow at 6pm
By Will Hazell, Political Correspondent
An interfaith charity has refused to cut ties with a Muslim group banned from engagement by the Government because it says doing so would sow “divisions”.
The Inter Faith Network (IFN) is at risk of losing all its taxpayer funding and closing because it counts a member of the Muslim Council of Britain (MCB) among its trustees.
The Government has a policy of non-engagement with the MCB dating back to 2009 when a former official endorsed a declaration that appeared to condone attacks on the Royal Navy.
Last month, the Telegraph revealed that the Michael Gove, the Communities Secretary, had written to the IFN telling them he was “minded” to withdraw a £155,000 funding offer because of the “reputational risk” of it having Hassan Joudi, an MCB member, as a trustee.
The IFN is heavily dependent on taxpayer funding, having received £3,858,000 from the Government since 2010. While it has been allowed by the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities (DLUHC) to keep a £45,020 underspend from last year, the charity has said this is “not sufficient to keep it going” and that it will have to close if it does not receive further money.
The IFN has written back to Mr Gove defending Mr Joudi’s position on its board and the fact that the MCB is a member of its network.
In a statement posted on its website, it said: “It is fully understood that Government can choose not to engage with bodies for reasons that it is not required to make public. However, it would be difficult for a charity to do so where a body has not been proscribed, had legal action taken against it or unless there were to be a clear issue of reputational damage (not always, of course, a straightforward matter to judge).
“It is not easy to see how IFN’s purpose (the value of which it has always been believed the Government appreciates) could be achieved by sowing division – and division would certainly be sown if there was an attempt to expel from membership, without its having been proscribed, found guilty of illegal actions or in some way acted so as to bring reputational damage to IFN, an organisation that has among its members (and therefore represents) over 500 national, regional and local Muslim organisations, mosques, charities and schools.
“Although the Government can choose not to engage with it, that is not a sensible option open to the IFN if it is to achieve the purposes for which the Government funds it in the first place.”
The Telegraph has previously reported that officials within the DLUHC were also concerned that the IFN had not explicitly condemned Hamas’ attack on Israel on Oct 7. In response, the network has said it has a longstanding policy of not commenting on overseas events.
The MCB has been subject to a Whitehall-wide engagement ban dating to 2009 when an official at the council signed the Istanbul Declaration, which was widely interpreted as calling for attacks on Royal Navy vessels enforcing a UN weapons blockade on Hamas-run Gaza.
The MCB was contacted for comment. The council has previously said that it “never endorsed the declaration and we specifically reject any notion that we endorse an attack on the Royal Navy”.
A DLUHC spokesman said: “All funded organisations are monitored by the department and subject to internal finance and due diligence processes.”