Today is a difficult time for Muslim charities in Britain. For all the hard work, there is a high risk of being reviled, smeared and branded a terrorist organisation.
The Palestinian Relief and Development Fund, known as Interpal, is one such charity. Interpal provides humanitarian aid, education, health and community development in Gaza, the West Bank, Jordan and Lebanon. It celebrates its 20th anniversary this year. The United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) publicly recognises Interpal as an indispensable partner. With refugees fleeing Syria’s bloody conflict and a huge relief effort under way in Gaza in the aftermath of the latest war with Israel, their work has never been so vital.
But over the last 18 years, the charity has fought an extraordinary battle against the odds to keep running. Media speculation and a series of unsubstantiated and vicious allegations stretching back to 1996 accusing the group of supporting Hamas, the Palestinian Islamist organisation, has prompted three Charity Commission enquiries, all of which have cleared it of wrongdoing and misuse of funds.
All this seems to have fallen on deaf ears. The truth is that Islamic charities in the UK find themselves in choppy waters as they face extraordinary scrutiny and pressure. In recent weeks, as David Cameron awarded the Charity Commission extra powers to investigate “extremism”, this has escalated.