European crisis commissioner says zero tolerance will apply to Islamic Relief Worldwide

MEP had demanded investigation into potential ties between the charity and Muslim Brotherhood

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)
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European crisis commissioner Janez Lenarčič has said a "zero tolerance" principle will apply to aid group Islamic Relief Worldwide (IRW) if it is found to have links to the Muslim Brotherhood and terror groups.

It follows calls for an investigation from European Parliament Vice President Nicola Beer over concerns the European Commission has supported the charity.

She had urged for a suspension of funding to IRW while its alleged links to the Muslim Brotherhood are investigated.

She had written to the European Commission and said it was unacceptable for Islamic Relief to receive funding if it has connections to the Muslim Brotherhood.

Now, Mr Lenarčič, who is in charge of a €1.4billion humanitarian aid budget, says the Commission has been made aware of reported "personal ties" of some former representatives of Islamic Relief Germany and IRW with the Muslim Brotherhood and Hamas, and the ban of IRW by Israel authorities in 2014.

He said the Commission is ready to "cease funding" with organisations that do not adhere to its required standards.

"The Commission does not tolerate support for terrorism or antisemitism, in line with established legislation and policies, and will immediately take action should it become aware of any proven evidence in this respect," he replied in a written response to her concerns.

"As a matter of principle, the Commission takes a ‘zero tolerance’ approach to any misconduct by partner organisations receiving EU funds. All partners must abide by strict ethical and professional rules.

"The Commission regularly monitors and audits all partners to ensure their continued compliance with those standards. The Commission is ready to cease funding any organisation which does not abide by the required high ethical and professional rules and standards, as stated in the applicable contractual arrangements with them."

He said the Commission’s Early Detection and Exclusion System will omit EU funding of entities linked to terrorist activities.

"Additionally, all entities implementing EU funds are subject to EU restrictive measures and an entity sanctioned by them is prohibited from receiving EU funding," he said.

Ms Beer, a German lawyer, had asked the EU Commission to reveal if it was aware of any connections between the groups and to clarify its mechanisms for reviewing organisations with links to terrorists or anti-Semites.

"European funds must not fall into the hands of organisations that are responsible for anti-Semitism or other hatred," she said.

"In 2017 and 2019, the German Federal Government stated that there were significant personnel connections between Islamic Relief Germany and the Muslim Brotherhood.

"Additionally, Islamic Relief Germany and Islamic Relief Sweden are co-operation partners of Islamic Relief Worldwide, which was banned by the Israeli authorities in 2014 for being part of the Hamas funding apparatus.

"Can the Commission guarantee that it will immediately end funding for and co-operation with non-governmental organisations with links to terrorist or anti-Semitic organisations?"

European Union flags flutter outside the EU Commission headquarters in Brussels.  Reuters / Yves Herman / File Photo

Ties between the British-based Islamic Relief charity and the Muslim Brotherhood have recently been under scrutiny.

The Netherlands and Germany banned Islamic Relief Worldwide from receiving funding and it is now being forced to provide monthly compliance reports after an urgent review by USAid, America's national aid agency, after its links to the Muslim Brotherhood were exposed.

German aid alliance group Aktion Deutschland Hilft suspended Islamic Relief Germany’s membership until December 2021, with the charity’s funding frozen.

Sigrid Kaag, the Netherlands' Minister for Foreign Trade and Development, banned any release of government funds to the organisation in January, after an investigation by the UK-based Charity Commission into anti-Semitism at Islamic Relief Worldwide.

The aid watchdog began its investigation last July, when Islamic Relief Worldwide trustee Heshmat Khalifa resigned over more than a dozen offensive Facebook posts from 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: August 12, 2021, 2:17 PM