Muslim charities should be smarter and anticipate being attacked by their critics, the chair of the Conservative Muslim Forum has said.
Speaking at a Muslim Charities Forum-sponsored event, which was held at a venue outside the Conservative Party conference in Manchester on Tuesday afternoon after conference officials cancelled the original event on Saturday, Mohammed Amin said many Muslim charities provided disaster relief in conflict zones.
He said he understood that it was impossible to deliver aid in Gaza without cooperating with the terrorist group Hamas, but charity leaders did not have to look like they enjoyed such interactions.
The event, which was hosted by the charity chief executives body Acevo and called Friend or Foe? Faith and British Values: the Muslim Charities Question, had been scheduled to take place on Tuesday evening inside the secure zone at the conference, but was cancelled after conference organisers were contacted by a Sunday Telegraph journalist who claimed there were links between people scheduled to speak at the event, the sponsors and terrorist organisations, a contention that was denied by the organisations involved.
"I know that Hamas normally want to take a picture of you when you give aid to Gaza and you don’t have a choice but to do this, but you should make sure you look miserable in the photos – not as if they are your best buddies," said Amin, who is a patron of Tell Mama UK, a non-profit organisation that monitors anti-Muslim incidents.
He also advised charities that work in such areas to work with their allies. "If you can say you were there alongside the Roman Catholic church, it helps," he said.
Amin said it was harder for faith-based charities to engage with other organisations than non-religious charities because people often accused them of proselytising and trying to promote their own religious agendas.
He said that forcing Catholic adoption agencies to allow same-sex couples to use their services was a case in which the state’s concept of equality had conflicted with a charity’s religious beliefs.
Faith-based charities that were more orthodox in their religious views found it harder to engage than those with more "wishy washy" positions, he said.
Also speaking on the panel, Othman Moqbel, chief executive of the international aid charity Human Appeal and treasurer of the MCF, both organisations accused by The Sunday Telegraph of having terrorist links, said he had met several Conservative ministers this week and agreed to host another event in conjunction with them in the future. Moqbel and the Human Appeal have strongly denied any terrorist connections.
Asked by audience member Paul Farmer, chief executive of the mental health charity Mind, how non-Muslim charities could support their Muslim counterparts with the challenges they were facing, Moqbel said that more events like Friend or Foe? should be held.
He said it would be helpful if larger charities offered their knowledge and expertise and said Acevo should establish a working group so that Muslim and non-Muslim charities could collaborate more.
Chairing the panel, Sir Stephen Bubb, chief executive of Acevo, reiterated his view, first expressed in press statements on Sunday, that he was astonished by the cancellation of the initial event. "What message has it sent out that Muslim charities were not allowed at the Conservative Party conference?" he said. "This event was called Friend or Foe?, and it appears the party has chosen to see Muslim charities as foes. I don’t believe many Conservatives think this is clever and I hope this was just a stupid decision by a conference official – if not, we have a much bigger problem."
A spokesman for Acevo said Moqbel had not had his conference pass removed by the party despite the event’s cancellation.
Third Sector asked the Minister for Civil Society, Rob Wilson, what he thought of the situation on Monday evening. He declined to comment.