The entire leadership of Britain’s biggest Muslim charity has resigned after it emerged that it had replaced a trustee who had stepped down over antisemitic posts with a man who glorified terror attacks against Israel, and described the Jewish state as the “Zionist enemy.”
In a statement released on Saturday, the board of Islamic Relief Worldwide (IRW) said that they had acted “swiftly and decisively in the light of historic social media posts by a trustee that were offensive and unacceptable, and in no way reflect the views and core values of the organization.”
The entire board of five has stepped down and will not stand for re-election, the statement continued. “An entirely new IRW board is being elected by a new International General Assembly that is meeting for the first time on 22 August under far-reaching governance reforms,” it stated.
The mass resignation comes just a month after Heshmat Khalifa resigned as director of IRW, following The Times‘ disclosure of antisemitic social media posts in which he called Israelis the “grandchildren of monkeys and pigs,” and Egypt’s president a “pimp son of the Jews.” He also lauded Hamas as “the purest resistance movement.”
Khalifa’s place on the board was taken by another IRW trustee, Almoutaz Tayara, who is also the chairman of Islamic Relief Germany, and the charity promised it was “reviewing our processes for screening trustees’ and senior executives’ social media posts to ensure that this will not happen again”.
However, posts have now come to light on Tayara’s social media accounts displaying similarly antisemitic views. According to The Times, Tayara described Hamas’s leaders as “great men” who answered the “divine and holy call of the Muslim Brotherhood.” Another showed Barack Obama wearing a tie emblazoned with the Star of David.
Referring to Hamas’s military wing, the Izz al-Din al-Qassem Brigades, which was proscribed by the EU and UK as a terrorist organization in 2001, Tayara wrote: “The al-Qassem heroes did not graduate from the military academies of the UK and the US, unlike the rulers and royals of the Arab world who, there, were nurtured on cowardice and allegiance to the foreigners — the UK and the US.”
The posts were originally published to Tayara’s Facebook account in 2014 and 2015, but came to light in 2017 when German researcher Sigrid Herrmann-Marschall highlighted them in a blog post. Islamic Relief Germany was made aware of the posts at that time, but allowed him to stay on as chairman after he apologized, deleted the posts and closed his Facebook account.
The charity said that it had been “shocked by the anti-western and anti-Israel content of the posts partially glorifying violence and terrorism,” when it became aware of them, but that Tayara had given “outstanding support” to the charity for more than a decade.
Islamic Relief has long disputed allegations of connections to Islamist organizations, including those made by the German government last year that the charity had “significant ties” to the Muslim Brotherhood – an allegation IRW said was “mistaken and unfounded.”
In 2014 the charity was banned from operating within Israel and the West Bank after the Israel Security Agency (Shin Bet), the Coordinator for Government Activities in the Territories (COGAT), and legal authorities provided incriminating information against IRW. “[The IRW] is another source of funds for Hamas, and we have no intention of allowing it to operate and assist terrorist activity against Israel,” then Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon said at the time.
“Dr Tayara’s deleted posts in no way reflect the views or position of Islamic Relief Worldwide, which is a purely humanitarian organization with no political affiliations,” IRW said in its statement on the board’s resignation. “We reject and condemn terrorism and believe that all forms of discrimination – including antisemitism – are unacceptable. These values are fundamental to our organization, our donors and the people we serve.”
The charity added that it was “conducting a wholesale review of its vetting and screening processes for trustee and senior executive appointments and a review of other policies, including its social media policies, to ensure that its values are upheld. It is working with and taking advice from the Charity Commission in seeking to put in place appropriate vetting and screening procedures and social media policies.”
According to The Times, between 2009 and 2018, the most recent decade for which the IRW’s accounts have been published, the UN handed £24.1 million. It’s total income for the whole decade was £967 million, including £20.4 million donated by the EU and a further £4.8 million from Sweden, Switzerland and Spain. During the same period, the UK handed IRW £8.2 million, but has made no donations to the charity since 2015.
Dr Tayara has told The Times that he was “deeply ashamed” of his posts, which he claimed were copied from others when he was in a state of distress over the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. “These were not and are not my beliefs,” he said, adding: “I do not support any terrorist movement. I do not support the Muslim Brotherhood or the Izz al-Din al-Qassem Brigades. I am not an antisemite.”
However, Dr Vidino, director of the program on extremism at George Washington University, said the comments by both men revealed “a problem at the highest levels of IRW that is not confined to one rogue individual.
“Such conduct should raise red flags for every national government and civil society organization that partners with and funds Islamic Relief,” he added.
The Charity Commission, which opened an investigation into the charity following Mr Khalifa’s resignation, said that it had “requested an urgent meeting with the incoming board.”