The U.K.’s Charity Commission shut down the Islamic Research Foundation International (IRFI) on April 26 for alleged violations of British charitable law. The foundation was cited for funding Peace TV, an Islamist news channel that lost its licenses to broadcast in 2019 for inciting murder.
“This is an excellent and much needed move,” Fiyaz Mughal, a trustee and Founder of Muslims Against Antisemitism, told FWI. “If charities do not comply and they have a history where there is mismanagement, they need to be closed down if they don’t comply or meet the standards.” Mughal added that the Charity Commission needs to do more than it is currently doing in looking into problematic charities.
The Commission opened an inquiry into IRFI in April 2020, investigating multiple issues with the charity, including mismanagement of funds meant for the public good; the conflict of interest with its director, Zakir Naik as the primary individual behind both the charity and the TV channels; and the charity’s continued funding of Peace TV, despite multiple citations from Ofcom, which regulates communications services in the U.K.. The Charity Commission dissolved the charity in April 2022 and issued a report about its mismanagement the following month.
Naik, an Indian born exile living in Malaysia, founded IRFI in the U.K. in 2007, ostensibly to do charitable work in the name of Islam. From its inception, the organization raised money almost solely for Peace TV which Naik directed. British government documents indicate that 90-98% of IRFI’s funds from 2016 to 2020 went to Peace TV channels. IRFI never had its own website and instead used Peace TV’s website to collect funds through the charity for broadcasting. In the Charity Commission’s final decision to shutter the charity, it flagged IRFI’s improper use of charitable funds for non-charitable purposes. U.K. charity law allows for the connection of charitable and non-charitable organizations, but the charity’s funds must serve the public good.
In 2009, began documenting Peace TV’s breaches of its broadcasting standards. These infractions include endorsing wife beating; comments from Naik in support of the death penalty for apostates who proselytize; support for maiming or execution, including crucifixion, for those who criticize Islam; and a dramatized stabbing.
“As to those who wage a war against Allah,” Naik said in one episode, “…you either execute them, you either crucify them, or chop off the opposite limbs (that’s right hand and left leg, or left hand and right leg), or you can put them in exile.”
Naik reportedly has 22 million followers on Facebook.
Peace TV was also cited for an episode calling for the punishment of people who practice magic or “Ruqya” to promote healing or ward off evil. Ofcom noted that many Muslims from South Asia living in the U.K. perform these rituals and that a Muslim cleric had been recently “murdered for his involvement in such practices.”
After the anti-Ruqya episode was “accidentally” re-aired multiple times, Ofcom issued a draft suspension, and the channel’s broadcasting rights were surrendered in 2019. In May 2020, Ofcom fined Peace TV £300,000 ($366,000) for breaking its broadcasting rules, with a press release stating “Our investigations found that programmes broadcast on Peace TV Urdu and Peace TV contained hate speech and highly offensive content, which in one instance was likely to incite crime.”
Naik, who did not respond to FWI’s efforts to contact him, has been on the radar of security officials for many years. The U.K.’s Home Secretary banned Naik from the U.K. in 2010 for extremist statements prompting the Charity Commission to pursue his removal as IRFI’s director.
However, U.K. law reportedly had no provision enabling the Commission to remove Naik from his U.K. based charity. In 2016, a new law allowed the Commission to take action. Naik was finally removed from his position in December 2020.
Meanwhile, law enforcement in India want Naik, a native of India, for money laundering and his possible role in inspiring a number of ISIS jihadists. Officials banned IRFI from operating in India in 2016 because of national security concerns. A number of additional countries have banned him from visiting, including Canada.
Jafar Hussain Qureshi, listed as one of the directors of IRFI in the Companies House register, also happens to have run almost all the U.K.-based charities formerly controlled by Naik. Qureshi is one of the primary operators of Muslim Aid’s branch in India. Muslim Aid has ties to Jamaat-e-Islami, a violent South Asian movement.