Muslim charity should have done more to prevent extreme material appearing on its website, regulator says

A Charity Commission report on the Islamic Network found trustees had not done enough to ensure content that talked of killing gay people, among other things, did not appear

Charity Commission
Charity Commission

An Islamic charity found to have material on its website that sought to legitimise the killing of gay people and encouraged the killing of Muslims in certain circumstances should have done more to prevent the material appearing, a Charity Commission inquiry has concluded.

The Charity Commission opened a statutory inquiry into the Islamic Network in August last year after the commission was made aware of material hosted on the charity’s website.

Islamic Network took down its website before the commission began its inquiries, but an analysis of the charity’s archived web data found statements that referred to homosexuality as a "sick disease" and said killing gay people was legitimate.

One article called "The prohibition of the Blood of a Muslim and the reasons for shedding it" made reference to the circumstances under Islamic law when it was permissible to "spill the blood of a Muslim". The article discussed other circumstances in which it might be permissible to kill and concluded "that a Muslim can be killed legally only for three crimes: a) adultery b) murder and c) apostasy."

The commission established that the material was posted between 2003 and 2004 and none of the charity’s current trustees were in post when the articles in question were first uploaded. But the commission concluded that although the trustees took down the website quickly, they should have done more to ensure its content was appropriate and found they were too slow to implement new policies to ensure extremism and hate material was not promoted.

As part of the commission’s monitoring work, the commission visited the charity in November 2012 and asked it to put in place an action plan to improve management and administration of the charity and ensure the trustees complied with their legal duties and responsibilities and acted in the best interests of the charity.

The inquiry also examined the charity’s overall governance and compliance with previous guidance given to it. It concluded that the current trustees were continuing to comply with an action plan the regulator issued as part of an earlier engagement with the charity in 2013. It also concluded that the trustees had put in place a greatly improved process for risk-assessing speakers, but  needed to take steps to improve the evidence for their decision-making.

Michelle Russell, director of investigations, monitoring and enforcement at the Charity Commission, said in a statement: "Trustees carry ultimate responsibility for the operation and activities of a charity, including for the content of its website and social media. Trustees are responsible for putting in place appropriate systems of control to ensure that material posted on their website is suitable and appropriate for a charity.

"If trustees have concerns about internet-based content that might be illegal and/or inappropriate for charities to support, or charity staff or volunteers raise concerns, the trustees must act responsibly to look into this and where necessary take action to address the concerns." 

Islamic Network did not respond before publication to requests for comment.

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