Leader of UK’s biggest Muslim charity quits over anti-Semitic posts

Trustee resigns charity role after investigation uncovers more than a dozen Facebook posts highly offensive to Jews

Investigators found more than a dozen anti-Semitic Facebook posts. Reuters
Investigators found more than a dozen anti-Semitic Facebook posts. Reuters

A senior leader of Britain’s largest Muslim charity has quit after it was revealed he had posted anti-Semitic messages on social media in a months-long tirade.

Heshmat Khalifa, who was a trustee of the Islamic Relief Worldwide charity, resigned after being confronted with more than a dozen offensive Facebook posts from 2014 and 2015.

AUK Companies House filing for Islamic Relief Worldwide said Mr Khalifa had resigned as a director on July 16. The posts were uncovered by investigators from The Times. It said the Charity Commission, the British regulator, had opened a compliance enquiry into the body.

In the posts shown in the newspaper in a screen grab image, Mr Khalifa, 63, described Jews in an extremely offensive manner and was abusive towards Egypt’s President, Abdel Fattah El Sisi.

Mr Khalifa, a British citizen, said the Palestinian militant group Hamas was “the purest" such movement in history.

Islamic Relief was among 85 organisations designated as terrorist groups by the UAE Cabinet in 2014. According to a freedom of information request, the British foreign office believed it "had issues" over terrorist allegations. "Islamic Relief Worldwide (IRW) is a UK-based charity that has been designated by [redacted] UAE (November 2014) under their domestic Counter-Terrorism sanctions legislation due to alleged connections with Hamas," an internal memo said at the time.

The charity has told The Times that it “sincerely regrets any offence caused”, and that the offensive posts were at odds with its values.

Mr Heshmat has resigned “with immediate effect”, it said.

Since its foundation in 1984, Islamic Relief Worldwide has grown fast and redistributes aid on behalf of the British government among other funders.

The charity, which over the past five years reported income of £570 million (Dh2.66 billion) has received contributions from high-profile organisations including the UN and European Commission.

It now operates in more than 40 countries around the world and has branches in the US, Germany, South Africa and Australia, where Mr Khalifa was until recently chairman.

The charity has in the past been forced to deny links to Islamist extremist groups.

Updated: July 24, 2020 03:14 PM

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