Islamic Relief's work is not being skewed by antisemitic views, former Attorney General finds

Dominic Grieve was commissioned to conduct a review after former senior leaders at the charity made racist comments on social media

Dominic Grieve (Photograph: Chris J Ratcliffe/Getty Images)
Dominic Grieve (Photograph: Chris J Ratcliffe/Getty Images)

There is no evidence to suggest that antisemitic comments made by senior leaders at Islamic Relief Worldwide had any link to its charitable work, a review by the former attorney general, Dominic Grieve, has concluded.

Grieve was asked to chair an independent commission in August after claims emerged the previous month that two senior figures at the charity had made antisemitic comments on social media.

In November, a senior director at the charity became the third senior figure forced to step down, after it emerged that he posted antisemitic comments on social media in 2014.

Grieve was asked to look at the charity’s governance structures and practices, policies around social media and the vetting of trustees and senior executives.

The report says: “It is important to understand that there is no evidence whatever that the reputational issues that have arisen over the conduct of trustees has had any link to the way IRW carries out its charitable work.”

To address the risk of trustees being appointed who have personal political views that are incompatible with IRW’s mission and ethos, the report highlights how the board had developed and was approving new policies on personal social media use and on the vetting of nominees.

It also says the charity’s code of conduct needs updating to reflect the importance of the updated policy on personal social media.

In addition, external consultants should be sought to help with the vetting of senior board members, the review concludes.

Speaking to Third Sector, Grieve said: “What I quickly realised is that this isn’t an organisation whose rules were lacking, but there was a problem with individuals, and the governance structure didn't address that satisfactorily.”

The former Conservative MP for Beaconsfield said he spoke to 57 witnesses during the review, including stakeholders, bankers, chartered accountants and senior members of staff.

He also consulted the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office and the Charity Commission.

Grieve said he found that IRW’s social media and vetting policies were sound, “but the trustees who made the comments slipped through the net because the posts were quite old”.

The former Conservative MP said it seemed like this was a problem shared by many charities that had been founded through the endeavour of a group of friends.

As they grow and partner organisations spread to other countries, this can lead to governance and vetting issues, he said.

“There is absolutely no evidence that this charity’s work is being skewed by these views,” said Grieve.

The report makes more than a dozen recommendations, which include the expansion of its total trustees to 15 to allow for five independent trustees, and the introduction of trustee term limits.

In the longer term, there remains the question of whether the UK charity should be split from the international organisation, which will be kept under review.

Grieve said the charity was unusual in that it was structured in a way that meant UK trustees were underrepresented.

“That is the single most important change it has to make,” he added.

The Charity Commission concluded earlier this week that it was satisfied with the charity’s response to the antisemitic comments made by former senior leaders.

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