A charity founded by Indian exile Dr. Zakir Naik to help fund TV programs that incite violence and murder, has been dissolved by the Charity Commission for England and Wales.
The Islamic Research Foundation International (IRFI)— registered in the UK in 2007 with the aim of “advancing the faith and religious practices of Islam”—was shut down earlier this month after several run-ins with charity and broadcasting regulators.
This move has been lauded by those who have tried for years to silence the hate speech emanating from the charity’s Peace TV, which, among other things, broadcasts hateful sermons by Dr. Zakir Naik. These widely broadcast sermons led to Indian-born Naik being denied entry to the UK in 2010.
However, in 2015 he was awarded the King Faisal International Prize for “Service of Islam.“
Fast forward to 2020, Naik was barred from acting as a trustee and from holding senior management functions in any charity in England and Wales earlier this month, after receiving numerous complaints about the IRFI’s activities, the Commission decided to dissolve it.
NSS head of policy and research Megan Manson said:
The commission’s decision to close down this charity is a victory against Islamist extremism. Charities have a duty to provide a public benefit. An organisation like IRFI that promotes such extreme hate and violence should never have been allowed on the charity register, and benefit from all the tax breaks given to charities, in the first place.
Unfortunately, we know there are still charities registered under ‘he advancement of religion’ which promote extremism and hatred. Our evidence suggests this charitable purpose can be used as a cloak enabling fundamentalists to promote their extremist views. We therefore call for the charitable purpose of ‘the advancement of religion’ to be reviewed as a matter of urgency. Charities must not be allowed to undermine public safety, community cohesion or the charity sector.
In an earlier report, Manson pointed out:
The fact is, the Charity Commission, and its equivalent regulators in Scotland and Northern Ireland, are hamstrung by archaic charity laws that give special privilege to religious charities.
Peace TV’s record in the UK
- Broadcasting regulator Ofcom reprimanded Peace TV in 2012 after Naik said he “tended to agree” that Muslims should be executed if they leave Islam and tried to proselytize a different religion “against Islam.”
- In 2016 the channel was fined $81,976 after another speaker used deeply derogatory terms to describe Jews.
- Other speakers who have broadcast on Peace TV include Bilal Philips, who the US named as a co-conspirator in the 9/11 attacks.
- In 2018 Ofcom said it was pursuing six investigations against Peace TV, relating to shows with titles including Valley of the Homosexuals.
- In 2019 Ofcom revoked the license of Peace TV Urdu’s broadcaster, Club TV, after it found the channel had “repeatedly rebroadcast” material that incited murder.
- In 2020 Ofcom fined Peace TV’s former broadcasters $378,351 for breaches of its broadcasting code.
What do we know about Dr. Zakir Naik?
In 2016, Naik fled India after being accused of terror-related activities and inciting extremism through hate speeches, and washed up in Malaysia, where, in 2019, he was been banned from giving speeches in the interests of “national security”.
He was charged with making inflammatory speeches and questioned by local police over his intent to provoke a breach of peace by making remarks about Hindu and Chinese communities living in the Muslim-majority nation.
The previous year, then Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir warned that Naik permanent residency might be revoked if could be proven that his actions had harmed his country’s “well-being”
Mahathir said it was “quite clear” Zakir Naik wanted to participate in racial politics.
He is stirring up racial feelings. The police will have to investigate whether it is causing tension; obviously, it is. You can preach (religiously) but he wasn’t doing that. He was talking about Chinese going back to China and Indians going back to India. I have never said such things. But he did. That is politics.
In May 2019, the BBC reported that Indian prosecutors had charged Naik in absentia with money laundering. They accused him of acquiring $28m worth of criminal assets, a claim he denied.
India’s Enforcement Directorate (ED), which investigates financial crimes, told a court in Mumbai that it had identified assets worth millions of dollars as proceeds of crime.
The court was also told that Dr. Naik’s
Inflammatory speeches and lectures have inspired and incited a number of Muslim youths in India to commit unlawful activities and terrorist acts.
Centre for Inquiry Canada calls for reform
Giving charitable status to outfits purely on the basis that they exist to promote religion is not confined to England and Wales. Last month it was reported that the Centre for Inquiry Canada (CFIC) called for charity law reform after finding religious charities cost taxpayers billions every year.
Canadian taxpayers subsidize religious activities by as much as $3.2 billion annually as a result of income tax relief available to Canadians who donate to religious charities.
This, said the CFIC, violates a Supreme Court ruling that freedom of religion includes freedom from religion, because every Canadian is required to subsidize religious activities.
The findings were made in a series of reports arguing that organizations whose sole purpose is the advancement of religion should no longer be granted charitable status.
Organizations such as the CFIC and the NSS are to be applauded for exposing charities that should never have been given charitable status to begin with.
But the problem won’t be solved until bodies that regulate charities are reformed root and branch to ensure only religious organizations doing genuine good.
Those that proselytize, generate hate, or advocate harmful practices such as conversion therapy—as Core Issues Trust does—should be excluded from all charity systems.
Promoting religion for its own sake, cannot, at the furthest stretch of the imagination, be regarded as a public benefit.