The Department for Communities and Local Government has withdrawn almost £140,000 in project funding to the Muslim Charities Forum over concerns about extremism and the charity’s poor performance against project objectives.
In a written statement submitted to parliament last week, Eric Pickles, the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government, said his department had also ordered the suspension of a contract worth about £6,000 to one of the MCF’s members, Islamic Help, over similar concerns.
The Faith Minorities in Action project, launched by the MCF in January and supported by the DCLG, was designed to encourage integration through inter-faith work and other projects. The MCF received £18,397 in January and another £91,772 in July from the DCLG, and was expecting an additional £138,030 in January 2015.
In September, the grant was described in a national newspaper as "madness" and "completely counter-intuitive", after allegations of links between MCF members and terrorist groups – allegations that the MCF refuted.
Pickles’ statement says: "Following a formal review of the project, which included examination of allegations made in the press and of the organisation’s continued poor performance in delivering against agreed objectives, I have taken the decision to terminate its funding."
It says that concerns had been raised about events held by MCF members at which individuals with extremist views had been invited to speak. "The Muslim Charities Forum has failed to reassure us that they have robust measures in place to investigate and challenge their members," it says, going on to say that this has undermined the MCF’s work and "means they are no longer able to deliver on the Faith Minorities in Action objectives".
A statement on the website of the MCF says it is "extremely disappointed at the decision", and rejects the basis on which it was made. The MCF said it was "considering all options available to contest the DCLG's decision and allegations".
A spokeswoman for the Charity Commission, which joined the MCF and members for an Eid dinner earlier this year, said: "I can confirm that the Muslim Charities Forum has made a serious incident report to us, to notify us of the decision by DCLG to withdraw funding for the Faith Minorities in Action Project with the charity. The charity did the right thing in informing us and filing a serious incident with its regulator proactively and promptly. We have no further comment to make at this stage."
The DCLG has also asked Faith Action, a network of community and faith charities, to stop funding Islamic Help to deliver English language training course, after the charity’s "recent invitation to an individual with extremist views to speak at one of their events".
A statement from Islamic Help said it was "surprised, dismayed and angered" by the news, saying it had not been informed first-hand by the DCLG of the decision, and that it had not been informed whom the individual or what the event in question was. "We utterly refute any accusations of being linked to or of playing any part in promoting extremist views or extremism," the statement says.
A spokesman for Islamic Help said the project in question was due to run across the current academic year, and that the contract for delivering it was worth about £6,000. The Charity Commission spokeswoman said the regulator was aware of and assessing the situation.
The DCLG statement concludes: "I hope this action illustrates our resolve to cease funding any organisation that supports or is linked to individuals who fuel hatred, division and violence. We will fund only those programmes and organisations that actively encourage integration and uphold fundamental British values."