The head of the Metropolitan Police has warned that the public should be careful about which charities they give their money to in case their donations end up funding terrorist activity.
Sir Bernard Hogan-Howe, commissioner of the Met, was speaking on The Andrew Marr Show on BBC One yesterday, before Counter-terrorism Awareness Week, which begins today.
The Muslim Charities Forum, which represents 10 prominent UK Islamic aid organisations, warned that the comments could be harmful.
Hogan-Howe talked about why the terror alert level across the UK was "severe" and what individual citizens should do to combat this threat.
"We’re trying to cut off money from terrorists," he said. "If people have got charity boxes around, be very careful where that money’s going. Are those charity boxes actually going to charity or are they going to someone else? We want to cut off the tools the terrorists use, where they’re going to get weapons."
Last month, a counter-extremism think tank said that about half the value of donations given to smaller charities working in Syria ends up in terrorist hands. This follows months of media and regulatory attention on the possibility of charities being abused for terrorist purposes.
After today’s launch, each day of this week would have a different terror awareness theme, according to a spokewoman for the Met. She said Thursday would be finance, which would encompass issues concerning charities, banks, local councils and other organisations.
The spokeswoman said: "People should ensure when they donate to do so to a registered charity. There are also charities that are really well placed – in, for example, Syria – that make sure that money goes to the right place.
"We are very careful – we absolutely would not want to stop people from giving money to charities, and we certainly wouldn’t want the message to be not to give."
A spokesman for the Muslim Charities Forum said: "Comments such as these have the potential of being harmful to the sector by discouraging people from donating to charities. We encourage and recommend that donors give to charities that are registered with the Charity Commission and adhere to Fundraising Standards Board guidelines. They should also have full awareness of who they are donating to, especially during street collections, and should ask collectors about the causes they are collecting for."