Charity Commission drive to register mosques makes slow progress

Faith and Social Cohesion Unit has encountered hostility to outreach workers

The Charity Commission's efforts to get more mosques onto the charities register have been hampered by the refusal of some trustees to allow visits by female outreach officers, according to Ghulam Rasool, head of the commission's Faith and Social Cohesion Unit.

The unit was established in October 2007 with a £1.2m grant from the Communities and Local Government department
to improve governance in faith charities. The CLG grant, which runs until April 2010, was aimed specifically at Muslim charities, so the unit initially focused on these.

In its first year, the FSCU contacted 381 unregistered mosques and registered 124. In a board paper he will present at a commission board meeting today, Rasool calls the results encouraging, but admits that not all the registrations can be attributed to the unit's work.

He also says some mosques have "not been very welcoming" to the commission's outreach officers, all of whom are female. He says some have been refused visits or have not been "considered on equal terms with their male managers".

Other problems include the poaching of some of the unit's staff by other government departments and the lack of effective, well-established Muslim umbrella groups.

The paper also says trustees of Muslim charities are still concerned that registration with the commission could mean losing their autonomy, and there is a high risk that some might take active steps to avoid qualifying for registration, such as adopting objects that are not wholly charitable.

There is also a high risk, it says, that media coverage of police raids and arrests in the Muslim community has made people suspicious of any activity involving the Government. The solution, it suggests, could be to postpone outreach events until the community is more receptive.
In its second year, the FSCU will focus on improving governance among mosques that are already registered.

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The board paper

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