Regulator probes Islamic Relief Worldwide after anti-semitic comments from senior figure

The Charity Commission has opened a compliance case into Islamic Relief Worldwide after claims a senior figure at the charity made anti-semitic comments on social media. 

The charity said in a statement this week that trustee and former staff member Heshmat Khalifa had stepped down from its board after anti-semitic social media posts made five years ago were uncovered in an account in his name.

Khalifa spent 14 years working for the charity during which he established its base in Australia and worked as its director of international fundraising. 

The charity said Khalifa had acknowledged that his posts were unacceptable and had apologised for falling short of the strict standards expected by its code of conduct.

It said he would play no further part in any other Islamic Relief boards, with immediate effect.

“We are sorry to say that posts on Mr Khalifa’s personal social media account in 2014 and 2015, which IRW was first made aware of on 16 July 2020, contravene the values and principles of IRW. We sincerely regret any offence caused,” the statement said. 

“Islamic Relief Worldwide is a purely humanitarian organisation with no political affiliations.

“We work to uphold the highest humanitarian standards of neutrality, impartiality and independence, assisting people of all faiths and none, without discrimination by race, religion, gender or sexual orientation,” the IRW statement said.

“We reject and condemn terrorism and believe that all forms of discrimination – including anti-semitism – are unacceptable. These values are fundamental to our organisation, our donors and the people we serve.”

A statement from the Charity Commission said the regulator had opened a compliance case and had contacted the charity for a response to the allegations. 

The commission said its role was to regulate charity trustees’ compliance with their legal duties in line with the charity law framework but it could not make an assessment on potential breaches of criminal law because that was a police matter.

“Anti-semitic and racist comments are abhorrent and have no place in charity,” the statement said. 

“Charities exist to make the world a better place, and all trustees, as representatives of their charity, should be expected to conduct themselves in a way that is consistent with their charity’s purpose and values.”

The commission said the charity was cooperating with its inquiries. 

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