Counter-Terror and Muslim charity in the UK Post-Covid

Counter-Terror and Muslim charity in the UK Post-Covid
2023-02-27

Flames of controversy have been reignited following the UK Governments review of the counter-terror policy ‘Prevent’. Beset by delays, strong criticisms of the choice of reviewers, and boycotted by 17 organisations (including Amnesty International), the review of Prevent was published in February 2023. While the Prevent review strongly denies undue targeting of Muslim individuals and communities the report also stresses that ‘Prevent is not doing enough to counter non-violent Islamist extremism’.

The Prevent strategy is one arm of the UK’s counter-terror policy and sits alongside the other so-called “P’s” (Prepare, Protect, Prevent and Peruse). Counter-terror policies, including the controversial Prevent Duty, has been extended throughout the UK across all public sectors including Education, Health, and importantly for this blog, charity. Since the events of 9/11 and the London Bombing of 7/7, the seemingly benign act of charity has been increasingly securitized.

Charities and civil society organisations sit in tension within Counter-Terror (C-T) assumptions. On the one hand the Prevent programme argues that charities are a mechanism for building a strong civil society which it states is essential in counter-radicalisation efforts. On the other hand, charities are suspected of raising funds for nefarious organisations and terrorist actors leading to restrictions, monitoring, and surveillance of charities. Forms of Muslim charity have been highlighted as areas of concern with the 9/11 Commission Report stating that al-Qaeda had taken advantage of Islam’s strong ethos of charitable giving. This is despite the same report concluding that al-Qaeda moved, stored, and collected finances in “ordinary” ways – no charities or Muslim organisations were detected to be involved at all.

The consequences of extending flawed counter-terror policies upon charities has been the closure of the largest Muslim charities in the US (two of the most controversial closures were the International Benevolence Fund and the Holy Land Foundation) and allegations of unfair targeting and investigations of Muslim charities in the UK. The government selection of William Shawcross to review the Prevent programme was especially controversial given Shawcross’ previous role as Chair of the Charity Commission of England and Wales. It was under Shawcross’ reign where most allegations of unfair targeting of Muslim charities was made. Shawcross has also publicly made comments deemed “anti-Islamic” by many when he stated that Islam, was the most “terrifying” threat to Europe. Choosing Shawcross to head the Prevent review has led many to argue the current government has no interest in a genuinely objective review.

The current situation is one where grievances and inequalities are felt between Muslim’s and non-Muslim’s in the UK. Muslim groups, and specifically charities, are finding it harder to carry out their essential and much needed work in an era of growing demand associated with the cost of living crisis and post-Covid recovery.

In a recently published article, I argue that the current counter-terror legislation impacting Muslim charities in the UK are 1) counter-productive and 2) risk ignoring the alternative and more inclusive conceptualization of “social integration” offered by Muslim charitable practices. The array of charitable work carried out by Muslim practitioners during covid made more visible the contribution of Muslim actors to British civil society. From PPE distribution to food parcels, to tackling loneliness during covid restrictions, Muslim charitable practitioners filled a needed vacuum for vulnerable residents of Britain based on need irrespective of faith or none. My recently published article therefore argues that the environment post-Covid offers an opportunity to shift the narrative of Muslim charitable giving from suspicion of ‘terrorist’ financing to an important tool in combating ‘terrorist’ narratives.

Current Counter-Terror policies, including lesser known “financial counter-terror” strategies are severely hampering charity’s ability to serve the worlds most vulnerable. In turn, curtailments, surveillance, and monitoring of charities (especially charities deemed “Muslim”) undermines the efforts of social integration deemed by UK counter-terror initiatives as essential in curbing “extremist” ideology. All charities interviewed for this research had experienced either banking payment delays, threats of account closures or had their accounts closed or refused. Note that no UK Muslim charity has been found guilty of involvement in a violent act in recent decades. The point being policies are being adopted with no empirical basis as their foundation.

Muslim charitable practitioners were amongst the first responders to the Covid crisis in the UK serving communities of all faiths and none. Partnerships between Muslim and non-Muslim charities expanded rapidly during Covid proving that allegations of Muslim “isolationism” were demonstrably false. In the current cost of living crisis, charitable donations amongst the general public have fallen drastically with the exception of faith-based actors, with Muslims donating more than any other group by faith category. There is currently no evidence that the monitoring, surveillance, and curtailment of charitable institutions have thwarted a single terrorist act. Yet, current C-T policies have harmed the worlds most vulnerable and in need as banking payments are delayed or denied. The consequences of delayed or denied funds are catastrophic. As one interviewee stated, “people have died”.

As segments of British society become more reliant on charitable provisions, it will become increasingly important to support, rather than thwart, the efforts of Muslim charities. This is not only for the benefit of Muslim charities and their members but crucially to continue support to the British public (regardless of faith) at a time of increasing need. In our post-Covid environment, there is an opportunity to shift the narrative of Muslim charitable giving from a factor in ‘extremism’ to an important tool in combating extremist narratives and building more inclusive conceptualisations of ‘social integration’.

Published by The School of Social Science, University of Aberdeen

Search Blog

Browse by Month

2024

  1. Jan There are no items to show for January 2024
  2. Feb There are no items to show for February 2024
  3. Mar There are no items to show for March 2024
  4. Apr There are no items to show for April 2024
  5. May
  6. Jun There are no items to show for June 2024
  7. Jul There are no items to show for July 2024
  8. Aug There are no items to show for August 2024
  9. Sep There are no items to show for September 2024
  10. Oct There are no items to show for October 2024
  11. Nov There are no items to show for November 2024
  12. Dec There are no items to show for December 2024

2023

  1. Jan
  2. Feb
  3. Mar
  4. Apr There are no items to show for April 2023
  5. May
  6. Jun There are no items to show for June 2023
  7. Jul There are no items to show for July 2023
  8. Aug There are no items to show for August 2023
  9. Sep There are no items to show for September 2023
  10. Oct There are no items to show for October 2023
  11. Nov There are no items to show for November 2023
  12. Dec There are no items to show for December 2023

2022

  1. Jan There are no items to show for January 2022
  2. Feb There are no items to show for February 2022
  3. Mar There are no items to show for March 2022
  4. Apr There are no items to show for April 2022
  5. May There are no items to show for May 2022
  6. Jun There are no items to show for June 2022
  7. Jul There are no items to show for July 2022
  8. Aug There are no items to show for August 2022
  9. Sep
  10. Oct There are no items to show for October 2022
  11. Nov There are no items to show for November 2022
  12. Dec

2021

  1. Jan There are no items to show for January 2021
  2. Feb There are no items to show for February 2021
  3. Mar There are no items to show for March 2021
  4. Apr There are no items to show for April 2021
  5. May There are no items to show for May 2021
  6. Jun There are no items to show for June 2021
  7. Jul There are no items to show for July 2021
  8. Aug There are no items to show for August 2021
  9. Sep
  10. Oct There are no items to show for October 2021
  11. Nov There are no items to show for November 2021
  12. Dec There are no items to show for December 2021

2020

  1. Jan There are no items to show for January 2020
  2. Feb
  3. Mar There are no items to show for March 2020
  4. Apr There are no items to show for April 2020
  5. May There are no items to show for May 2020
  6. Jun There are no items to show for June 2020
  7. Jul There are no items to show for July 2020
  8. Aug There are no items to show for August 2020
  9. Sep There are no items to show for September 2020
  10. Oct There are no items to show for October 2020
  11. Nov There are no items to show for November 2020
  12. Dec There are no items to show for December 2020

2019

  1. Jan There are no items to show for January 2019
  2. Feb There are no items to show for February 2019
  3. Mar There are no items to show for March 2019
  4. Apr There are no items to show for April 2019
  5. May There are no items to show for May 2019
  6. Jun
  7. Jul
  8. Aug There are no items to show for August 2019
  9. Sep
  10. Oct
  11. Nov
  12. Dec There are no items to show for December 2019