Wednesday, June 12, 2024

UK Interfaith Group Shutters after Failing to Condemn Hamas Massacre

News in BriefUK Interfaith Group Shutters after Failing to Condemn Hamas Massacre

A UK interfaith group founded in 1987 is closing its doors in response to the British government’s decision to halt funding to the organization due to its ties to the Muslim Council of Britain, an Islamist organization with ties to terrorist groups in South Asia, and for its failure to condemn the October 7 massacre. The Interfaith Network (IFN), established in 1987, announced its decision to shut down on February 22, 2024 after a failed lobbying effort to restore its funding, which, according to the BBC, was worth £150,000 or approximately $190,000.

Things started to go south for IFN when the organization failed to condemn the October 7 massacre, says Muhammad Al-Hussaini, a senior lecturer in Islamic Studies at the Oxford Centre for Religion and Public Life and board member of Scriptural Reasoning (an organization that promotes dialogue between people of different faiths regarding their holy texts).

The Telegraph, a London newspaper, reported in early December that officials from Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities (DLUHC), believed “the charity should have taken a more active role in condemning Hamas and addressing the rise in community tensions that followed the attack.” In early January, IFN stated it refrained from comment on the October 7 massacre in congruence with its “longstanding” policy of not commenting on events that take place overseas.

“They had so much to say in the aftermath of 9/11 and all the way through to the 7/7 London bombings, but on this issue, their silence was deafening,” Al-Hussaini said, adding that “Nobody wanted to offend the Muslims in the IFN, so they were not able to issue a statement condemning the Hamas atrocities in Israel.”

After the IFN’s failure to condemn the October 7 massacre got everyone’s attention, officials and journalists started digging into its connections to the MCB, which itself has ties to the Jamaat e Islami, an Islamist organization in South Asia whose leaders were involved in mass killings during Bangladesh’s 1971 war for independence, Al Hussaini reported.

Observers were particularly alarmed by the presence of Hassan Joudi, MCB’s former deputy secretary general, on IFN’s board of trustees, the BBC reported. The British government cut ties with the MCB in 2009 when its Deputy Secretary General Daud Abdullah signed the Istanbul Declaration, which according to The Telegraph, “was widely interpreted as calling for attacks on Royal Navy vessels enforcing a UN weapons blockade on Hamas-run Gaza.” It was also interpreted as promoting attacks on Jewish communities as well.

The MCB responded angrily to IFN’s closure, describing the government’s decision to halt funding to the organization as “vindictive” and “reflective of a preference to pursue divisive culture wars rather than cross-community harmony.”

Al-Hussaini will not lament the organization’s passing.

“It wasn’t so much a network as an empire,” he said. “It was run by a little coterie, a little cabal of people who were there from the outset,” he said. They were essentially completely unelected representatives of different religions.”

Al-Hussaini had been working to educate policymakers for years about the inner workings of the IFN. “It has been a long, hard, painful road, but the stars aligned on this particular issue,” he said.

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