Charity Commission opens case on Hindu charity

The National Council of Hindu Temples has been accused of inviting a radical, right-wing speaker to a seminar in the House of Commons

Headquarters of the NCHT
Headquarters of the NCHT

The Charity Commission has opened a compliance case on a Hindu charity after the charity was accused of inviting a radical speaker to a House of Commons event.

The National Council of Hindu Temples hosted a seminar on 18 October called "tolerating the intolerant" , which addressed whether Hindu traditions were under assault from other religions.

The keynote address at the seminar was by Tapan Ghosh, who has been accused of holding far-right Hindu nationalist views about Islam.

An open letter, which was co-signed by a range of people, including the leaders of the Association of British Muslims, the Asian Mums Network and the Women against Radicalisation Network, called for the NCHT to be stripped of its charitable status.

In 2015 the NCHT was contacted by the Charity Commission about allegations the it had appeared to back the Conservatives in that year’s general election. The commission contacted it again after this year's general election because it appeared to back Theresa May's government and criticise Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn before the country went to the polls.

A spokeswoman for the Charity Commission said the regulator had not yet received the letter, but said in a statement: "The commission has opened a case into the National Council of Hindu Temples (UK) to assess concerns raised regarding a speaker at an event linked to the charity. 

"The commission has previously issued the charity with regulatory advice and guidance regarding similar issues, which the commission will consider as a part of the assessment."

The issue was also raised in the House of Commons, where Naz Shah, the Labour MP for Bradford West, made a point of order on Thursday about the NCHT event, which was hosted by Bob Blackman, the Conservative MP for Harrow East.

Shah told parliament: "Mr Ghosh holds abhorrent views, is on record calling on the United Nations to control the birth rate of Muslims and praising the genocide of Rohingya Muslims in Burma, and also said that Muslims should be forced to leave their religion if they come to a western country. Only this Monday, Mr Ghosh was pictured with UK far-right extremist leader Tommy Robinson.

"It is incredible to me that any member would think it acceptable to host a meeting with this individual, let alone invite him to the House of Commons."

In response, Blackman said he hosted the event in his capacity as chairman of the all-party parliamentary group for British Hindus, and that Ghosh attended to present evidence of physical attacks, forced marriages, rapes and forced conversions that are alleged to have happened in West Bengal.

"I have made clear, and the National Council of Hindu Temples has made clear, that it was only in that capacity – as presenting that evidence – that that individual was invited to this house," he said.

"He made no abhorrent remarks at the meeting, and I am quite clear that I and the National Council of Hindu Temples do not agree with the views he previously stated. We do not accept them, and we do not endorse them in any shape or form, but it is right that this house has the opportunity, and that members have the opportunity, to hear evidence from people of what is happening in other countries."

In a statement, the NCHT said that the event had raised concerns about religious discrimination in Europe and abuse against Hindu and Sikh girls.

The statement said: "We are disappointed that the focus of one segment of the media is on the tweets made by a grass-roots activist, who may be guilty of intemperate language, allowing for differences in vocabulary and regional nuance, but he is certainly not guilty of crimes against vulnerable girls nor of blatant institutional discrimination."

The charity said it was working with British imams and the Sikh community on the protection of vulnerable women of all religions.

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