Key points drawn on in a letter of 22 January 2024 from IFN’s Co-Chairs to Secretary of State
This page contains key points drawn on in a letter from IFN's Co-Chairs to the Secretary of State for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities, the Rt Hon Michael Gove MP, on 22 January 2024 in response to a letter from the Secretary of State to IFN's Co-Chairs on 19 January.
- Mr Hassan Joudi was appointed as an IFN Trustee. Mr Joudi’s role as an IFN Trustee from 12 July 2023 is in the public domain through IFN’s website and also the Charity Commission and Companies House websites. Trustees appointed at IFN’s 12 July 2023 AGM have been listed on its website since 13 July 2023. Mr Joudi’s past role as one of the Muslim Council of Britain’s Assistant Secretary Generals is also publicly known.
- The 22 Trustees provided for in the relevant IFN Bye-Law (https://www.interfaith.org.uk/about/governance) are elected or appointed - depending on category of membership - to IFN’s Board by the member bodies of the Inter Faith Network. IFN’s Board’s role does not include selecting or endorsing individual nominees for appointment or election put forward from within its categories of membership.
- Due diligence checks are made when Trustees are elected or appointed. However, a link to an IFN member body could not disqualify an individual from serving.
- No different approach has been taken in the case of a Trustee nominated by the Muslim Council of Britain (note that they are not a representative of that body –Trustees serve in their own right).
- IFN has never been informed by DLUHC (the Department of Levelling Up, Housing and Communities) that any fresh Government funding offered would be conditional on IFN’s not having a Trustee with a link to the Muslim Council of Britain, nor that it would be conditional on the MCB (or any other organisation), not being in membership of IFN. IFN has also never been advised by the Department to seek to expel MCB from membership on grounds such as the Government’s position of non-engagement with MCB.
- IFN does not endorse the views of any of its member bodies, nor can any one member body, or indeed Trustee, exert improper influence over the organisation. IFN’s purpose is to promote understanding about different faiths and strengthen good inter faith relations. That is the basis on which it has always sought and been granted Government funding, and that is what it has always achieved.
- There have never been questions from the Department or its predecessors about whether it seeks to achieve that, nor complaints about its grant usage reporting.
- It is fully understood that Government can choose not to engage with bodies for reasons that it is not required to make public. However, it would be difficult for a charity to do so where a body has not been proscribed, had legal action taken against it or unless there were to be a clear issue of reputational damage (not always, of course, a straightforward matter to judge). As noted in previous correspondence with DLUHC, IFN has sought guidance from both Government and the Charity Commission on this general point. It also sought legal advice.
- It is not easy to see how IFN’s purpose (the value of which it has always been believed the Government appreciates) could be achieved by sowing division - and division would certainly be sown if there was an attempt to expel from membership, without its having been proscribed, found guilty of illegal actions or in some way acted so as to bring reputational damage to IFN, an organisation that has among its members (and therefore represents) over 500 national, regional and local Muslim organisations, mosques, charities and schools. Although the Government can choose not to engage with it, that is not a sensible option open to the IFN if it is to achieve the purposes for which the Government funds it in the first place.
- By engaging with IFN, which happens to have the MCB in membership and to have an MCB member appointed to its board, the Government is not engaging with the MCB. No one member of IFN’s Board of Trustees - currently 20-strong - of numerous faiths can determine IFN policy and actions. There is no more Government engagement with MCB because of that membership than there is by it with the MCB because, for example, MCB’s Deputy General Secretary is a member of the Crown Prosecution Service London Scrutiny and Involvement Panel and the Police Islington Advisory Group. Among the more than 60 members of the National Council of the MCB, it is inevitable that there are individuals who sit on boards of schools, mosques and charities that are in receipt of Government funding. It is also inevitable that the Government will be providing direct funding to many of the MCB’s 500+ members. None of that engages the Government with the MCB itself.