The Conservative peer Baroness Warsi has criticised the level of scrutiny and vilification faced by Muslim charities in the UK
Speaking at the inaugural Muslim Charities Forum's Humanitarian Awards in London last night, Warsi said: "In the last decade it has been brutal being a Muslim in public life. I speak from experience, as do many of you. From outright accusations of what you are doing, why you are doing it and what your agenda is to more subtle nudge-nudge, wink-wink chipping away at people’s reputations."
She said that people from the Muslim community and the charitable sector had had a "ginormous spotlight" shone on them in recent years. "The level of scrutiny and daily vilification that you have faced makes me question how you keep going," she said.
Warsi criticised the government’s approach to working with the Muslim charity sector after she resigned as a foreign minister over the escalation of violence in the Israel-Gaza conflict in 2014. "Within four months of me leaving government, the wonderful partnership we had built up with the Muslim Charities Forum was stopped on accusations that were never proven," she said.
Warsi also questioned the direction the Charity Commission had taken under William Shawcross, its chair. The regulator has been criticised by some in the charity sector for having a disproportionate focus on Islamic extremism, but the commission has rejected this.
Warsi compared Shawcross to the Jungle Book characters Baloo, the friendly bear, and Shere Khan, the aggressive tiger. She said: "While we admire the zeal, enthusiasm, fervour and passion of the nice Mr Shawcross, I would sleep a lot better if I could be sure that he was a Baloo and not a Shere Khan."
But Warsi said that Muslim charities must raise their game. "If you look closely enough at organisations, especially voluntary ones, you will find a loose thread that you can latch on to and you can unravel the organisation," she said. "We must strive for no loose threads. No inadequate trustees, no sitting on huge funds, no murky areas with partners."
A spokeswoman for the Charity Commission said it did not wish to comment on Warsi's remarks. She added the regulator had been delighted to attend last night's awards.
Othman Moqbel, chief executive of Human Appeal, said too many inaccurate reports were written about Muslim charities in some parts of the media. "Our government and many other Muslim charities listen to fake news," he said. "They listen to the fake news of the right-wing journalists and politicians.
"If you want to know what we’re doing, come and see. We should not allow the right-wing journalists to intimidate us."
Sir Stuart Etherington, chief executive of the National Council for Voluntary Organisations, said it was important for the broader charity sector to support Muslim organisations. "At the NCVO we understand the importance of solidarity between organisations," he said. "We understand that Muslim charities play an important role.
"You are very much part of what we are and you represent the strongest values of the British charitable sector."
Nine awards were handed out on the night.
Charity of the Year: Hand in Hand for Syria
Small Charity of the Year: Sufra
Volunteer of The Year: Zakariya Sharif Nur (Muslim Action for Development and Environment)
Fundraising Campaign of the Year: Penny Appeal
Advocacy Campaign of the Year: Islamic Relief
Most Impactful International Programme: Muslim Charity
Most Impactful Domestic Programme: Human Appeal
Charity Partnership of the Year: Al-Imdaad Foundation
Corporate Partnership of the Year: Global One.