Muslim Relief Charity’s Board Steps Down

The board of trustees at Islamic Relief Worldwide (IRW), a major UK-based Muslim charity, stepped down after two of its members resigned in succession due to inflammatory social media posts.

Board member Heshmat Khalifa resigned in July after posts came to light in which Khalifa referred to Egyptian president Abdel Fatah al-Sisi as a “pimp son of the Jews” and further referred to Israeli leaders as “grandchildren of monkeys and pigs,” according to UK newspaper The Guardian.

The Birmingham, UK-based nonprofit recruited Almoutaz Tayara to replace Khalifa, but Tayara’s Facebook account included a cartoon of former U.S. President Barack Obama wearing a star of David and praises for leaders of Hamas, a Palestinian organization whose military wing the United Kingdom labeled a terrorist organization, The Guardian reported.

The two resignations raised questions about the organization’s vetting process. according to Third Sector, a UK-based nonprofit trade publication. The IRW indicated it would work with the Charity Commission, the United Kingdom’s governmental body that oversees nonprofits, in reviewing its screening activities for board members and senior executives. The Charity Commission will also review the organization’s social media guidelines.

While board members had traditionally been appointed in consultation with the existing members, the newest members were chosen by the organization’s first-ever elective process. International members voted at a general assembly. The new board members include Chair Ihab Saad of the United States, Vice Chair Lamia El Amri of Sweden, Secretary Nora Amath of Australia and Treasurer Nurhayati Hassan of Malaysia.

A statement from the IRW apologized for any offense cause, and asserted the posts did not reflect the views or values of the organization.

The statement further noted “In both cases these were historical Facebook posts dating back to 2014 and 2015, before either individual was on the board of IRW. In both cases the board met in emergency session on the very day that the organisation was first made aware of the posts. Both individuals apologised for the comments made, agreeing that they were completely unacceptable. Both agreed that they should play no part in the future governance of Islamic Relief Worldwide.”

Despite this, in late August The National, an English-language newspaper based in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates, reported that other senior employees of the IRW “regularly published social media posts showing support for Hamas and Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood, and circulating conspiracy theories.” The Muslim Brotherhood has also come under scrutiny for alleged violent extremism by the UK government.

According to The National, social media pages for Abdul Mannan Bhatti, an IRW fundraising coordinator, included quotes from Muslim Brotherhood co-founder Sayyid Qutb. IRW employee Mohammad Irfaan posted a theory that the coronavirus was “planned 10 years ago by the Rockefellers” and IRW Ammar Elkhateeb posted pictures of Hamas fighters praying in honor of former Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi, a member of the Muslim Brotherhood, The National reported.

The reports did not indicate whether any disciplinary action had been taken against the three employees.

According to the IRW’s 2018 financial statement – the most recent available – the organization raised £128 million (roughly $171 million) while “protecting life and dignity” with the majority of those funds, as well as caring for orphans and vulnerable children, providing access to health and water and supporting sustainable livelihoods, among other activities. IRW has partner offices and presences in more than 30 countries.