Islamic Relief Worldwide apologises for management's illegal party

Dozens attended indoor gathering in breach of England's Covid rules

Islamic Relief Worldwide in Digbeth, Birmingham, England, United Kingdom. Digbeth is an area of Central Birmingham, England. Islamic Relief Worldwide is an international humanitarian organisation that provides development programs and humanitarian relief around the globe, regardless of race, political affiliation, gender or belief. Following the destruction of the Inner Ring Road, Digbeth is now considered a district within Birmingham City Centre. As part of the Big City Plan, Digbeth is undergoing a large redevelopment scheme that will regenerate the old industrial buildings into apartments, retail premises, offices and arts facilities. There is still however much industrial activity in the south of the area. (photo by Mike Kemp/In Pictures via Getty Images Images)

British-based charity Islamic Relief Worldwide has issued an apology after its chief executive and 30 managers held an indoor party after Eid Al Fitr in breach of Britain's Covid rules in May.

Chief executive Waseem Ahmad, general manager Azher Ayub and two directors joined up to 30 guests at the event held at the charity's clothes recycling headquarters in Birmingham, central England.

Images showed Mr Ahmad enjoying the reception with his colleagues on May 20, despite rules in England at the time allowing only six people or two households to meet indoors.

IRW apologised for the gathering and said those concerned “operate in a working bubble ... where daily temperature checks, social distancing, masks, sanitiser and ventilation are all used routinely in day-to-day working".

"All staff at the meal had their temperature checked on arrival at the office and were asymptomatic. We regret that some did not sufficiently maintain the routine distancing of the working day during the celebration meal.

"We will learn from this isolated incident to redouble our efforts in making sure all our activities are fully Covid-compliant.”

The event was reported to the police by a whistleblower who said the managers were guilty of double standards as they had told staff repeatedly to follow the rules.

"I felt it was really hypocritical of senior managers and the new CEO to so clearly be in breach of Covid rules, with a big group together, no social distancing, no masks, no other protections – yet they are stringent and don’t tolerate any breaches among the workforce at other sites in Birmingham and around the country," the whistleblower told the Birmingham Live newspaper.

"That this was also going on while cases are going up again in the community and people are at risk of dying again is not good and they should be held to account."

Birmingham last month recorded a surge in cases which led the government to offer the area enhanced support with a focus on increasing vaccination uptake, testing and support for those self-isolating.

"Islamic Relief takes a wide array of measures to implement national Covid-19 rules and protocols in its UK offices, and in its operations and delivery of aid to vulnerable communities across the world," IRW said.

"In this context of strict Covid-19 compliance overall, we are sorry to say that sufficient distancing was not observed by all at the celebration meal organised for a group of up to 30 staff in Birmingham on May 20.

"This was shortly after the further relaxation of government rules on May 17, when guidance signalled a further ‘opening up’ with regard to meeting friends, family and colleagues and placed increased emphasis on the need to exercise personal judgment around risks."

IRW has faced controversy over social media posts made by its trustees.

Last year, the UK's aid watchdog the Charity Commission began an investigation after it was revealed an IRW trustee, Heshmat Khalifa, who has since resigned, had written more than a dozen offensive Facebook posts between 2014 and 2015 relating to anti-Semitism and support of militant group Hamas.

Another IRW trustee, Almoutaz Tayara, admitted he had posted offensive material praising Hamas and an anti-Semitic cartoon, and fundraising co-ordinator Abdul Mannan Bhatti regularly posted quotes from Sayyid Qutb, a founder of the Muslim Brotherhood.

The Charity Commission said in January it was satisfied with the measures taken by the charity to address the publication of hate posts.

Updated: July 6th 2021, 1:29 PM