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17 Nov, 2014 13:54

Charity Commission ‘targets’ Muslim orgs – report

Charity Commission ‘targets’ Muslim orgs – report

More than a quarter of British charities under investigation by UK authorities are Islamic organizations, according to a report. Muslim leaders and activists have criticized the government for what they see as ‘excessive’ surveillance.

Analysis conducted by the think tank Claystone found that of the 76 charities currently being investigated by the UK’s Charity Commission, 20 were known to be Muslim-led organizations.

“[The commission] has labeled 55 charities with the issue code ‘extremism and radicalization’ without their knowledge, in the period 5 December 2012 to 8 May 2014. These charities were/are being monitored as a potential concern for matters relating to extremism and radicalization,” Claystone’s research director Adam Belaon told the Guardian.

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“There are no written criteria for applying or removing this label and thus it lends itself to non-evidence based targeting of particular groups. We don’t know the criteria used to apply these extremist tags by the commission. It’s all very subjective for a quasi-judicial body.”

Claystone, along with other Muslim advocacy organizations, have criticized what they see as the Charity Commission’s “targeting” of Islamic organizations, which they claim has intensified since Sir William Shawcross took the helm.

William Shawcross.( AFP Photo / Hong Kong Trade Development Council)

Shawcross, who once told the conservative Henry Jackson Society think tank that “Europe and Islam” were among the world’s most “terrifying” problems, has previously highlighted the threat of extremists operating through Islamic charities.

However, the Charity Commission claims it does not target particular groups, and that its investigations are based on its own risk assessment framework.

“The commission does not target Muslims, any other religion or type of charity. All our casework is prioritized and assessed for action against the risk framework, published on the website,” a commission spokesperson said.

“A full analysis of the commission’s compliance work including investigative and monitoring work for the last financial year will be in this year’s publication ‘Tackling Abuse and Mismanagement’.”

A number of British Muslim organizations, which have been subject to investigations and sudden bank account closures, have come out in support of the think-tank’s findings.

CAGE, an Islamic advocacy organization founded by former Guantanamo detainee Moazzamm Begg, said that abstract uses of the term “extremism” had resulted in some charities being under “perpetual investigation,” which provokes suspicion towards Muslim activist groups.

READ MORE:Anti-Muslim trolling ‘rampant’ on UK Twitter – report

“The report raises key evidence that Shawcross’s appointment is part of a string of appointments where Conservative-backed figures were placed in offices that are supposed to be non-partisan, thereby threatening civil liberties,” said CAGE spokesperson Cerie Bullivant.

“CAGE has had its own bank accounts shut down and funders investigated without being given any clear proof to justify why this is happening. This is taking place in a sector where experts have clearly stated that there are no clear links between charities and extremism.”

“The British government must seriously review its counter terror laws, not add more. Our domestic policy is increasingly marginalizing people so that they are more likely to commit violence,” he added.