Acting chief of Muslim charity resigns before documentary on extremism is broadcast

Rizwan Hussain has left the Global Aid Trust, where he was also a trustee, as ITV prepares to broadcast a documentary on extremism at a number of charities

GAT
GAT

A trustee who was also acting chief executive at the Muslim education charity the Global Aid Trust has resigned from both positions in advance of the broadcast of an undercover TV investigation of whether the charity was promoting extremism.

GAT is one of three charities that will be featured in an Exposure documentary called Charities Behaving Badly, produced by the company Hardcash, which will be shown on ITV on Wednesday.

Rizwan Hussain, who is also a television presenter for the Islam Channel and a barrister, told Third Sector that he had left the charity "in connection with the documentary". He declined to comment further.

GAT's activities listed on the Charity Commission register include sponsoring orphans, distributing cows and sheep to families and running women’s empowerment programmes in countries such as Bangladesh and Syria. It has five employees and 15 volunteers and in 2013 had an income of £625,000.

A source close to the charity, who did not wish to be named, confirmed that Hussain had been filmed secretly and said that several temporary staff who were featured in the programme had also left the charity.

A statement released by ITV in advance of the broadcast said that a worker it named as "Shafiq" at a charity it did not name – confirmed by Third Sector to be GAT – had made comments that showed admiration for Anwar al-Awlaki, an imam and Islamic militant believed to be the inspiration for the Charlie Hebdo murderers.

The statement quoted Shafiq as saying: "You don’t know who Anwar al-Awlaki is? He’s a scholar, and basically he was imprisoned, and after he came out of prison he started to incite hatred and telling the western Muslims to bomb. He incited bombings, basically. Bruv, he was a brilliant guy though."

The statement said that a radical preacher discussed jihad in Syria "openly as an option" on a boat trip hosted by the charity.

The source close to the charity said it had nothing to hide. Without describing the incident he was referring to, he said: "It was an isolated incident that had no connection at all with the charity."

He said it could not be the charity’s responsibility if one temporary member of staff made inappropriate comments on Facebook or elsewhere when they were not on the charity’s premises. "How do you know if some individuals might have particular views?" he said. "If someone is talking outside the office with someone else, how can the line manager control them?"

The source said the charity had a humanitarian focus and was not political or religious. Referring to some of the views expressed on the programme, he said: "If you ask me as an individual, I would say I absolutely don’t support these kind of things."

He said that Hussain – who has also presented charity events on television on behalf of Muslim Aid, the Muslim Charity and Islamic Relief, according to his Wikipedia page – had been working in the media for 14 years and the charity had not received any complaints about his comments, on television or in other forums, during that time.

GAT was criticised last year by the counter-extremism group Stand for Peace, which accused it of promoting Muslim extremist speakers at its events.

A spokeswoman for the Charity Commission said she could not comment specifically on GAT, but said of the forthcoming documentary: "We are already taking action in relation to a number of concerns raised with us as a result of undercover filming in charities carried out by a TV production company.

"We remain in contact with the film-makers regarding the final broadcast and have requested all footage. We will issue an update on our regulatory action when it is appropriate to do so."

The identity of the other two charities to be featured in the documentary has not been revealed.

ITV said in its statement that supporters of one of the other charities shouted "‘white power’ and ‘Victory to the Aryan Race’" and used slogans relating to Hitler’s Mein Kampf.

In the third charity, the statement said, schoolchildren were taught that "to destroy Hindu history is the secret conspiracy of the Christians" and were told by their tutor "if it comes to Islam, they are the world’s worst religion".

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