Britain’s approach to the Muslim charity sector is stifling the potential of charities to help in the battle against violent extremism, according to Sir Stephen Bubb, head of the charity chief executives body Acevo.
Speaking at a press conference in London yesterday, Bubb said that he had written to the Prime Minister David Cameron, the Labour Party leader Ed Miliband and the Deputy Prime Minister and Liberal Democrat leader Nick Clegg to urge them to meet him and a delegation of Muslim charities to discuss "serious flaws" in the UK’s legal and financial regulation and in its approach to tackling extremism.
The press conference came after Bubb’s return from a visit to Pakistan, organised at the request of the Muslim Charities Forum, where he looked at humanitarian projects and sought to understand some of the barriers to good practice.
In a statement released before the event, Bubb said it was "regrettable" that the bank accounts of several Islamic charities had been frozen and that the Charity Commission had been accused of adopting an "unbalanced" approach in its dealings with such charities.
Bubb said: "Britain needs to fight terrorism with both hands – not with one hand tied behind our back. We need high-level strategic security measures, but also better understanding of the conditions on the ground that breed or alleviate the threat of extremism. There are serious flaws in our current approach.
"This depends upon sensible, credible and proportionate regulation, and a common approach to issues such as financial management and banking. I want to see action from all the major political parties, for them to meet with me and a delegation of international charities to discuss these issues, and to agree an agenda for the new government as a commitment to the fight against terrorism."
A spokeswoman for the Charity Commission said in a statement: "The commission believes it is essential for charities to have banking facilities and has been fully involved in discussions to find a resolution. We are keen to look generally at how it can work with all faith charities, and we have been absolutely clear that we do not have an ‘unbalanced’ approach to how we work with certain charities."