The number of charities referred by the Charities Commission for extremist links has tripled in just three years, according to the head of the Charity Commission, William Shawcross. He told The Sunday Times his organization spoke to police officers about concerns over extremist charities 630 times last year, up from 234 times just three years ago.
The commission opened eight compliance cases and four formal inquiries into charities for “allegations of abuse of charities for terrorist or extremist purposes, including concerns about charities operating in Syria and other higher risk areas, in which terrorist groups operate” in the year 2015/16.
Shawcross told The Sunday Times extremism was “the most potentially dangerous and deadly” problem facing charities in the UK.
“It is the most dangerous because of the threat of Islamist extremism,” he said. “It is not the most constant threat – it is the most potentially deadly threat.”
Muslim charities complain their work has fallen foul of increasingly robust counter-terrorism policies and they are restricted from providing services due to unnecessarily intrusive scrutiny of Islamic charities.
In February 2016, two former secretaries of international development, Andrew Mitchell (Conservative) and Clare Short (Labour) wrote to the House of Commons International Development Select Committee to complain about the treatment of Muslim charities.
“We have got this enormous capacity in the UK of these Muslim humanitarian charities, yet they are struggling with one hand behind their back,” Andrew Mitchell said. “We need a proper scrutiny and examination bringing all this out. It is preventing efficiency.”
Several charities, including Islamic Relief, the world’s largest Muslim charity and one which is linked to the global Islamist organization the Muslim Brotherhood, had their bank accounts shut down.
Shawcross hit back at complaints by Muslim charities in his interview however, saying due diligence was necessary to protect both the public and the charities themselves so those doing good work were not caught up in controversy undeservedly.
“A group of Muslim charity leaders came in to complain when I said this the first time and I said, ‘Look we are here to protect you if there were another atrocity on the streets of London, like the murder of Lee Rigby,” Shawcross told The Sunday Times. “And, if an atrocity like the murder of Lee Rigby were in any way associated with your charity it would be catastrophic for you. We are trying to protect you and protect Muslim charities from that kind of abuse’.”