UK think tank cites Zakir Naik over extremists’ abuse of charities
A new report by a London-based think tank on Islamist extremists exploiting charities and NGOs for funds and support for terrorism mentions Indian preacher Zakir Naik, who was banned from Britain in 2010 but remains the chair of a UK-based organisation.
The report by the Henry Jackson Society, titled “Wolves in sheep’s clothing: How Islamist extremists exploit the UK charitable sector”, assesses that in the last year, more than £6 million of taxpayers’ money was given to such charity organisations.
“The review found that some organisations were ‘purposefully vague’ about their activities and charitable status, portray themselves as charities to increase their credibility and exploit the Islamic duty to give to charity, and that those donating money may not be aware of the organisations’ agenda,” it said.
The figure of £6 million, it said, represents “only the tip of the iceberg”. The report said that despite more than a decade of attempts to improve the regulation of the charitable sector, “a concerning number of UK-registered charities continue to fund and support extremism”.
The report noted that Naik, whose UK visa was revoked in 2010 when Theresa May was home secretary, was invited to speak in Birmingham in June of that year by the Islamic Dawah Centre International. His Peace TV channel had been banned in India, Bangladesh and Canada, it added.
“Though there is no evidence of Naik’s direct involvement in terrorism, there are concerns about the radicalisation potential of Naik’s lectures,” it said, and reproduced some of his controversial remarks, as well as those of Satya Pal Singh, former Mumbai police commissioner who reportedly investigated Naik’s activities.
“Whilst Naik is banned from entering the UK, he remains a trustee and chair of the Islamic Research Foundation International (IRFI), a UK-registered charity,” the report said.
“In the financial year ending 2016, their income was £951,356. £994,848, in excess of its annual income, was paid to Peace TV, and an additional £11,000 to the Al Noor Foundation. In addition to its charitable status, IRF is also registered in the UK as a private limited company.”
In 2016, regulator Ofcom had fined Peace TV Urdu £65,000 for violating its Broadcasting Code due to anti-Semitic content aired in September 2015, the report noted. The Universal Broadcasting Corporation Ltd, a registered company in the UK of which Naik is director and chairman, held the licence for Peace TV.
“While charities can be abused for criminal purposes by those involved in terrorist activities, this report focuses on abuse by those Islamist extremists whose views are not illegal but remain problematic and dangerous," the report said.
"On occasion, the lines between the two forms of abuse are blurred, with some charities connected to terrorism also showing signs of extremism, as is seen in the case of some humanitarian aid charities and those with other activities abroad,” it added.
The report made a series of recommendations, including giving more powers to the regulator Charity Commission, and said: “Until more comprehensive action is taken, a network of Islamist extremists operating in the UK will continue to use charities and taxpayer money to fund the spread of divisive, illiberal and intolerant views within our communities.”
Malaysian government officials have said that Naik was given permanent resident status six years ago. Indian security experts have said they suspect that Naik is now holed up in Malaysia.
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