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Michael Gove intends to stop funding an interfaith charity because of its links to the Muslim Council of Britain, The Sunday Telegraph can disclose.
The Communities Secretary wrote to the Inter Faith Network on Friday informing them that he planned to withdraw taxpayer funding because of the “reputational risk” posed by it counting an MCB member 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.
Founded in 1987, the IFN is a charity that exists to “make better known and understood the teachings, traditions and practices of the different faith communities in the UK” and to build “good relations between people of different faiths”.
The organisation is heavily reliant on taxpayer support, receiving £3,858,000 from the Government since 2010.
However, the IFN has also drawn criticism, with the Telegraph reporting in 2023 that officials within the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities were concerned that the charity had not explicitly condemned Hamas’ attack on Israel on Oct 7.
The IFN has said that it has a “longstanding policy on the making of statements which precludes direct comment on overseas events”.
The network has also been criticised for counting the MCB among its member organisations, despite the Government having a policy of non-engagement with the council.
In July 2023, the IFN was told that it would receive a further tranche of money from DLUHC to tide it over until March 2024.
However, the money did not materialise, with the IFN warning earlier in January that if it did not arrive soon it would be unable to keep operating and that the “precautionary step” had been taken of issuing redundancy notices to permanent staff.
But in a letter sent to the IFN’s co-chairs, Mr Gove said the money would not be transferred.
He said: “I am writing to inform you that I am minded to withdraw the offer of new funding to the Inter Faith Network for the UK for the financial year 2023/24.
“Since my officials wrote to [IFN executive director] Dr Harriet Crabtree on 7 July 2023 to inform her that this department would make this offer subject to robust financial and due diligence checks, it has come to my attention that a member of the Muslim Council of Britain (MCB) has been appointed as a trustee of the Inter Faith Network.
“Successive governments have had a long-standing policy of non-engagement with the MCB. The appointment of an MCB trustee to the board of the Inter Faith Network – a Government-funded organisation – poses a reputational risk to the Government. I am therefore minded to withdraw the provisional offer of £155,000 of new funding for 2023/24, outlined in the letter of 7 July 2023.”
The letter concludes by saying that the IFN has seven days to respond should it wish to “discuss this further, provide further information or clarification on the appointment, or make any other representations in relation to this matter”.
The reference to the MCB member appears to relate to Hassan Joudi, a former deputy secretary general of the council who was appointed a trustee of the IFN in July 2023.
The UK Government first cut ties with the MCB under Gordon Brown in 2009, after 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.
While relations were temporarily restored in 2010, the Tories reintroduced the boycott when they came to power.
The MCB has previously said that it “never endorsed the declaration and we specifically reject any notion that we endorse an attack on the Royal Navy. That position was acknowledged by the same Gordon Brown government in 2010 when relations were restored.”