In an apparent attempt to demonstrate their continued relevance and influence, UK-based supporters of the Islamic Republic of Iran have condemned the British Government’s decision to remove the trustees of a Muslim charity affiliated with Iran’s theocratic regime and install a “non-Muslim woman” as interim director amid an ongoing inquiry.
They expressed their displeasure in a May 31 letter to the UK Charity Commission in which they condemned its decision to install Emma Moody, “a non-Muslim woman” from the law firm Womble Bond Dickinson, in place of the ousted trustees of the Islamic Centre of England. The ouster of the trustees and installation of Moody as interim director further demonstrates “Islamophobic British state policies” and “will result in the alienation of Muslims from their own places of worship,” the letter states.
“In the interests of fairness and justice, we call upon you to urgently reconsider this decision,” it concludes.
The letter is an indication that regime supporters in the UK are feeling marginalized in the face of growing opposition from their opponents in England, said Laleh Tangsiri, a prominent anti-regime activist. She is part of a growing number of dissidents in the Iranian diaspora protesting against the repressive policies of the theocratic government established by Ayatollah Khoemeni in 1979. The diaspora dissident community to which Tangsiri belongs has become increasingly vocal in its opposition to the regime, currently led by Supreme Leader Ali Khameni, since the death of Mahsa Amini at the hands of Iranian security forces in September 2022. Despite efforts by the regime to intimidate Western-based dissidents, they have grown increasingly bold and confident, putting the pro-regime activists like those who signed the letter on their back feet.
“The pro-regime folks, who are increasingly subject to challenge from dissidents, are desperate to demonstrate their continued legitimacy and relevance,” she said.
The Islamic Human Rights Commission (IHRC), which itself is funded by Tehran and affiliated with the Iranian regime, organised the publication of the open letter to UK Charity Commision head Orlando Fraser. The list of the signatories reads like a who’s who of pro-Tehran activists in the UK.
Shajare was born in Iran but came to the UK to study in his teens before the Islamic revolution in 1979 overthrew Mohammad Reza Shah Pahlavi and replaced him with a Shia Muslim theocracy. Shajareh’s father was a high ranking general in the Iranian imperial army of the Shah. The son, however, was influenced by Khomeini’s political Islam after he settled in England and became an ardent pro-Khomeini activist against the Shah. He lives most of his time in England and has dual British and Iranian nationality, and visits Iran regularly at least once a year.
Another signatory is Chris Williamson, regime devotee and former Labour MP for Derby North, who was investigated by the Party’s national executive for antisemitism and links to Iran. The Labour Party’s National Executive blocked Williamson from standing as a Labour Party candidate in the 2019 general elections. He resigned from the Party and stood as an independent losing his seat and even his deposit for failing to get five percent of the vote. Williamson currently hosts the programme “Palestine Declassified” on Press TV, the English speaking arm of Iran’s state TV.
The letter came six days after the Islamic Centre locked its entrance gate and put up a notice written in English, Persian and Arabic on its gates.
The text written in English said all their upcoming programs, including prayers, have been suspended until further notice after receiving “concerns of the community and for their safety.” The Persian text simply said all programs have been suspended until further notice because of “special conditions.” The Centre has not given any further explanation as to what they meant by “concerns for the community” and their safety nor what the “special conditions” are.
One UK official who responded by email on the condition of anonymity told FWI “They have not been closed by His Majesty’s Government nor any issue from ICE/Embassy raised with us (yet)”.
The unexplained closure of the centre was followed by noisy protests and gatherings outside the locked gates on June 1, 2023, which continued into late hours. Supporters of the Islamic Centre blocked the pavement outside its gates and chanted against the charity commission and Emma Moody, calling her a “Dictator.”
The protesters did not hide their allegiance to the Islamic Republic but waved the regime flag openly during their demonstration.
During the protest, Massoud Shajareh spoke to regime mouthpiece Press TV and criticised the UK authorities, saying “At the height of terrorism in Britain, [the] IRA, when the individuals died even in bombing or in prison, they were given all the rights in Catholic church, nobody said you should deny the religious rights of someone.”
Shajareh tried to solicit the support of the rest of the Muslim community in Britain by saying “This is not, I repeat, not just about the Islamic Centre of England, this is about Islam in Britain.” He accused Zionist organisations of trying to shut down the Islamic Centre in North London. Ironically, Shajareh affirmed the fatwa against Salman Rushdie after the author was brutally stabbed in late 2022.
The UK Charity Commission, seems unmoved by the letter and the “Islamophobia” accusation it contains, declaring that it “is an independent regulator. Any suggestion we have acted beyond our statutory objectives, functions and obligations as a public body is misleading.”
The protests aroused the disdain of Saloumeh Seyednia, an Iranian female political satirist who lives in London. She has more than a million followers on Instagram and has been repeatedly threatened for her anti-regime commentary.
“If anything, the attack on the Charity Commission’s decision shows how important the Islamic Centre of England is for Tehran and reveals the network of their associates in the UK,” said Seyednia, who has regularly challenged officials for failing to confront centers of Iranian influence in the UK. “The nature of the protesters also further proves the mosque is in fact the political outreach of the Supreme Leader of Iran in London.”
Seyednia also found it amusing that the protesters promoting the interests of a brutal dictator in Iran, responsible for murdering, maiming and imprisoning thousands of peaceful protesters are calling Emma Moody a “dictator.”
“It is yet another manifestation of the utter hypocrisy of this throng who have managed to settle in the UK and advance the political agenda of the mullahs in Iran,” she said, adding that the fight is not yet over.
“Future will tell whether the Charity Commission and the UK authorities will succumb to this intimidation campaign or not and if the weaponized ‘Islamophobia’ slurs will prevail again, but it may be well worth reminding the UK authorities that they still cannot reopen the British Council in Tehran or for the BBC to have offices in Iran as the Iran state TV do in the UK,” she said.
Potkin Azarmehr is a London-based investigative journalist, business intelligence analyst, and TV documentary maker who was born in Iran.