Michael Gove has written to the charity saying he “intends” to stop funding. Photo: Anadolu/Victor Szymanovich
An interfaith charity said it was preparing to close due to the government's decision to withdraw funding due to its links to the Muslim Council of Britain (MCB).
Interfaith Network (IFN) stated that it was with “great regret” that the “decision in principle to close the organization” had been made.
IFN was founded in 1987 as a charitable organization with the aim of “better knowledge and understanding of the teachings, traditions and the practices of different faith communities in the UK” and to build “good relationships between people of different faiths”.
The organization has relied heavily on taxpayer support, having received £3.8 million from the government since 2010.
However, last month The Telegraph reported that Michael Gove, the Communities Secretary, had written to the charity that it “intends” to stop funding because it considers the MCB member to be one of its trustees.
He has been subject to a Whitehall-wide ban by the MCB since 2009, when an official on the council signed the Istanbul Declaration, which was widely interpreted as a call for attacks on Royal Navy ships enforcing the UN weapons blockade of the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip.
The MCB previously said it “never endorsed this declaration” and “specifically rejects any suggestion that we support an attack on the Royal Navy.”
Refused to cut links
IFN refused to sever ties with MCB , saying it would sow “divisiveness” and that it would be difficult to do so in any case until the council was banned or legal action taken against it.
In a statement last week, the IFN said its decision to close would be confirmed on February 22 unless it received the £155,000 it had previously promised but then withdrawn by Mr Gove.
“The ongoing uncertainty around government funding for the Interfaith Network has had an extremely damaging impact on the charity,” it said. “It has proven impossible to continue without the £155,000 offered more than six months ago,” it added.
The Telegraph reported last year that Department of Uplift, Housing and Communities officials had also were outraged by the fact that the IFN did not directly condemn the Hamas attack on Israel.
A separate email sent to member groups this week by IFN co-chairs Cannon Hilary Barber and Narendra Vaghela mentioned the controversy, saying, that “financing is not the only problem.”
'Impact of overseas events'
The report said the charity's work had become “increasingly complex, not least because of the growing complexity of relationships between faith communities – perhaps particularly in the context of the impact of overseas events on interfaith relations in the UK.” .
“The nature of these events and their impact vary, but they are united by the periodic deterioration of specific relations in the UK.
“IFN usually navigated these periods and could be useful where appropriate and It is possible, but it is becoming increasingly difficult.”
Chairs said that “recent months” have seen “attacks” on the IFN's policy position of not making statements about events abroad, ” except indirectly where there is an impact on sectarian relations in the UK,” noting that “there were some signs of anger on the part of some that the IFN did not align with or support certain positions.”