Interfaith charity that stayed silent on Oct 7 Hamas attacks to close

Michael Gove had written to the charity saying he was ‘minded’ to end funding
Michael Gove had written to the charity saying he was ‘minded’ to end funding - Anadolu/Wiktor Szymanowicz
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An interfaith charity has said it is preparing to close because of a decision by the Government to end funding because of its links to the Muslim Council of Britain (MCB).

The Inter Faith Network (IFN) said that it was with “great regret” that it had taken an “in-principle decision to move towards closure of the organisation”.

The IFN was founded in 1987 as a charity to “make better known and understood the teachings, traditions and practices of the different faith communities in the UK” and to build “good relations between people of different faiths”.

The organisation has been heavily reliant on taxpayer support, receiving £3.8 million from the Government since 2010.

However, last month The Telegraph revealed that Michael Gove, the Communities Secretary, had written to the charity saying he was “minded” to end funding because it counts a member of the MCB among its trustees.

The MCB has been subject to a Whitehall-wide engagement ban dating to 2009 when an official at the council signed the Istanbul Declaration, which was widely interpreted as calling for attacks on Royal Navy vessels enforcing a UN weapons blockade on Hamas-run Gaza.

The MCB has previously said that it “never endorsed the declaration” and “specifically reject any notion that we endorse an attack on the Royal Navy”.

Refused to cut links

The IFN has refused to cut links with the MCB, saying doing so would sow “division” and that it would be difficult to do so anyway when the council has not been proscribed or had legal action taken against it.

In a statement last week, the IFN said that its decision to close would be confirmed on Feb 22 unless it received £155,000 that had been previously pledged, but then withdrawn, by Mr Gove.

“Continued uncertainty regarding government funding to the Inter Faith Network has had a hugely damaging effect on the charity,” it said. “Continuing to operate without the £155,000 offered over six months ago has not proven possible,” it added.

Last year, The Telegraph revealed that officials at the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities had also been angered by the fact that the IFN had not explicitly condemned Hamas’s attack on Israel.

A separate email sent to member groups this week by the IFN’s co-chairs, Canon Hilary Barber and Narendra Waghela, referenced the controversy, saying that “funding is not the only issue”.

‘Impact of overseas events’

The message said that the work of the charity had become “ever more complex, not least because of the growing complexity of faith community relations – perhaps particularly in the context of impacts of overseas events on interfaith relations in the UK”.

“The nature of those events and that impact changes but they have in common a periodic worsening of particular relationships in the UK.

“IFN has usually navigated those periods and been able to be helpful where appropriate and possible but that has become increasingly challenging.”

The chairs said that “recent months” had seen “attacks” on the IFN’s policy position of not making statements on overseas events “except indirectly, where there is an impact on UK interfaith relations”, noting there was “some indication of anger on the part of some that IFN has not aligned itself with particular positions or stood in support of them”.

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