Commission to establish faith advisory group

The Charity Commission is to set up a group of "critical friends" to advise its Faith and Social Cohesion Unit amid fears that the unit is being perceived as either favouring or singling out Muslim charities.

The proposal to set up a group of about 15 people drawn from all major faiths, as well as experts on faith-related matters, was approved by the commission’s board on 21 May.

The FCSU was set up last November with a £600,000 grant from the Department for Communities and Local Government to improve governance in Muslim charities.

Leepika Dutta, outreach manager for London at the FCSU, said the unit’s focus on the Muslim community had led to perceptions in some faith groups that Muslims were being given preferential treatment, whereas some Muslims felt they were being singled out by the regulator.

Rosie Chapman, executive director of policy and effectiveness, said it was legitimate to focus on Muslim groups because they are the second biggest faith group in England and Wales, but said the programme did need to be extended in future.

Sarah Atkinson, head of corporate affairs, told Third Sector that the advisory group would a big step towards widening the unit’s work because members would be able to advise on how the template could be adapted to different faiths.

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