Regulator opens inquiry into Islamic charity over financial links to TV station

Markaz - El Tathgheef - El Eslami has donated £290,000 to the Ahlebait TV Network and provided other loans to the same business, according to the charity's accounts

Charity Commission
Charity Commission

The Charity Commission has opened a statutory inquiry into an Islamic charity over concerns about its connections to a non-charitable company, which the regulator says appears to run a TV station.

The London-based Markaz – El Tathgheef – El Eslami, also known as the Centre for Islamic Enlightening, has among its objects the advancement of Islam, educating the public about the religion and the provision of recreation facilities for Muslims. It registered with the commission in 1989 and had an income of £48,808 in the year to the end of September 2012.

The commission said in a statement today that its inquiry, which was opened on 3 June, would investigate "regulatory concerns about issues connected with related party transactions between the charity and a company, which appears to run a TV station and is in voluntary liquidation". It will also look at the financial administration and governance of the charity.

The charity’s accounts for the year ending 30 September 2009 say that it had "agreed to donate £290,000 to Ahlebait Ltd, towards the running expenses of its TV channel". Accounts also detail loans to Ahlebait and say that Hashim Raza, the director of Ahlebait, is the son of Markaz trustee Hassan Raza.

The Ahlebait TV Network broadcasts in languages including Urdu, English and Hindi across the world, and is available on Sky channel 836 in the UK. According to its website, it "provides alternative news, infotainment, current affairs and entertainment programming from an Islamic perspective". The channel was launched in 2009 and its website also solicits donations in addition to subscription fees to view the channel.

Markaz is the latest of a number of Islamic or Muslim community charities to become the subject of a statutory inquiry by the commission.

Earlier this month, Sir Stephen Bubb, head of the charity leaders body Acevo, said there was a perception that the commission was disproportionately targeting Muslim charities.

The regulator rejected the claim of bias in its regulatory work and said it was not possible for it to "remain silent about the risks and problems charities face".

Last week, Hany El-Banna, chair of the Muslim Charities Forum, said that the commission’s new policy of naming all charities that were the subject of statutory inquiries should be reversed for the sake of Muslim and non-Muslim charities alike.

Markaz did not respond to a request for comment before this article was published.

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