Watchdog opens inquiry into Iran-linked UK centre

The Islamic Centre of England was previously warned over praising a designated terrorist

A protest in Tehran after the death of Mahsa Amini. A UK charity is being investigated after a trustee called protesters in Iran 'soldiers of Satan'. Reuters
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Britain's charity watchdog has launched a statutory inquiry into a London Islamic centre after a trustee described protesters in Iran as “soldiers of Satan”.

The Charity Commission is assessing a speech made by Seyed Moosavi, one of the trustees of the Islamic Centre of England, in which he vilified protesters in Iran.

This comes after the charity was earlier issued a warning after a speaker had praised the former Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps commander, Qassem Suleimani, as “a great martyr”, after he was killed by a US drone strike in January 2020.

In a statement, the commission indicated that Mr Moosavi's speech deviated from undertakings made by the trustees following an earlier inquiry.

The Islamic Centre of England, run by the UK representative of Iran's supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, received a written warning from the Charity Commission after it hosted a candlelit vigil in 2020 to mourn the death of the commander of the Quds Force.

A speaker at the event was filmed praising Suleimani, who had been subject to UK sanctions for terrorism and terrorist financing since 2011.

Following an investigation, the charity was then issued a warning over the incident in June and the trustees were told they must take care over “any future events”.

However, it has now launched a statutory inquiry over “serious governance concerns” that have arisen since that finding.

Its recent comments were in response to protests taking place in Iran after the death in custody of Mahsa Amini, 22, who had been arrested in Tehran by the morality police for wearing her headscarf “improperly”.

A 45-minute speech, published on social media, has been criticised by Kasra Aarabi, of the Tony Blair Institute for Global Change.

“The UK government must take action against the Islamic Centre of England. It’s clear the views propagated at the centre are a direct threat to British values & citizens. The centre should be shut down & Khamenei’s representatives should be expelled," he tweeted.

“The regulator’s decision follows extensive engagement with the charity over recent years, which has included issuing the charity with an official warning,” the Charity Commission said in a statement.

“The warning followed two events held at the charity’s premises in 2020 that eulogised Maj Gen Qassem Soleimani, who is subject to UK sanctions.

“A follow-up case in 2021 concluded that the charity was only partially compliant with the actions set out in the official warning and identified further regulatory concerns.

“These included concerns about the content of the charity’s website and the trustees’ management of conflicts of interest, and led to the commission issuing an action plan.

“The commission has identified that the trustees have failed to fully comply with the action plan and official warning and a number of further regulatory concerns remain.

“The commission has therefore opened a statutory inquiry into the charity.”

Updated: November 24, 2022, 2:56 PM