Muslim education charity decries 'unjustified and disproportionate' tone of regulatory report

The Charity Commission has today published the results of an investigation into misconduct and mismanagement at the Islamic Education and Research Academy

A Muslim education charity has described the tone of a Charity Commission report that describes misconduct and mismanagement at the organisation as "unjustified and disproportionate".

The commission’s statutory inquiry report on the Islamic Education and Research Academy, published today, says there was misconduct and mismanagement in the charity’s administration because trustees did not properly assess the risks of appearing to be associated with people who condoned extremism.

The charity said the commission’s final report did not sufficiently reflect that it had accepted the commission’s complaints and sought to remedy the issue.

The charity’s spokesman said the commission’s investigation was sparked by newspaper reports in 2013 that claimed the charity had tried to enforce gender segregation at a University College London debate, in which an employee of iERA took part.

The commission report says it opened an assessment case on 15 March 2013 after media interest. The investigation identified regulatory concerns about previous statements made by the charity’s trustees and other speakers with which the charity came into contact through external and charity-organised events and partnerships.

In March 2014, the commission opened its inquiry after conducting a books and records inspection of the charity.

The report says that although trustees knew there were risks to the charity’s association with some speakers, they had not followed their own policies to assess and mitigate the risk, kept sufficient records of any decisions or discussions about risk or done enough to distance the charity from organisations and individuals that condoned or appeared to condone violent extremism.

It says the charity had failed to update the commission about changes to its board and had thus "recklessly provided misleading information to the commission" by submitting annual returns with the wrong names listed as trustees.

The commission issued an order to the charity to provide it with missing documents and assurances about its risk assessment, which it said trustees had responded to, but the report says it has asked for additional information.

Mohammed Hussain, head of PR and media at the charity, said iERA welcomed the end of the inquiry and acknowledged that the commission had had "legitimate concerns" about the charity’s governance, record-keeping and risk assessments.

But he added: "We’ve sorted out our act and put adequate policies in place pertaining to governance and risk assessment.

"Unfortunately, we still feel that the tone and language of the report and its emphasis on extremism and other aspects pertaining to external speakers was unjustified and disproportionate. 

"We welcome the closure of the investigation itself, but not the findings, because we feel that over a period of two and half years we’ve implemented policies, sought the advice of the commission and been through a learning process."

He also criticised the report for not mentioning the accusations of gender segregation, which he said had sparked the initial investigation but which the commission had found no evidence to support.

"The commission never cleared our name," said Hussain. "It has either ignored or completely brushed over something that has played a huge role in the tarnishing of our reputation.

"It should have done so because, as the regulatory body, it has a father-like responsibility to give the people of Britain confidence in charities."

The commission declined to respond to Hussain’s comments.

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