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Regulatory Failures

Alasdair Palmer in the Telegraph has a worth-reading piece on the reluctance of public sector regulators to take on the worst abuses by Islamist and terrorist-funding organisations:

[I]t is eight years since evidence first came to light that Interpal, a UK-based charity which aims to provide humanitarian relief in Palestine, is connected to the Union of the Good, an organisation which the US Treasury has designated as a terrorist entity on the grounds that it “facilitates the transfer of tens of millions of dollars a year to Hamas-managed associations in the West Bank and Gaza strip.”

But it was only last month that the commission released its report into the matter. That report was a response to a programme made by the journalist John Ware for the BBC two years previously. While the commission failed to investigate many of the BBC’s most serious charges against Interpal, it did at least conclude that the organisation should sever its ties with the Union of the Good. Those ties include the fact that Interpal has, as one of its trustees, a man who is also general secretary of the Union of the Good, and who may also have served on Hamas’s executive committee.

How will the commission check that Interpal has acted upon its demands? It is surprisingly coy about answering that question. It says it has received an assurance from Interpal that the link has been broken – but admits it has yet to check whether this is actually true. Suppose that, when the commission gets round to doing some checking of its own, it finds that Interpal still has ties to the Union of the Good. Then what will it do?

It could deprive the organisation of charitable status. That’s what it did to Odstock, a not-for-profit organisation which charged patients fees for medical treatment. The commission would like to do the same to private schools which charge fees without providing what it deems to be adequate “public benefit”.

So will the same sanction be applied to an organisation which the commission itself has ruled has links to a group that promotes terrorism? The answer to that question should surely be “Yes”. Because to most people, a connection to or involvement with a group advocating terrorism is a much more serious violation of the rules governing charitable activity than, say, charging patients.

No one, however, thinks that the Charity Commission is going to remove Interpal’s charitable status, or even the charitable status of the Green Crescent. You can be sure that some convenient form of words will be found to enable the commission to say that it has discharged its duty of ensuring that organisations it permits to be charities are not involved with groups linked to terrorism. Regulators in America, Germany and Australia take a more robust approach and prosecute charities they think have connections with terrorist groups. But we don’t – and if you ask why the commission why, you won’t receive an adequate answer.

The Charity Commission is not the only government regulator that fails to do its job effectively. Ofsted is another. Just as it took media reports to bring Interpal and the Green Crescent to the commission’s attention, so it has taken a report by the think tank Civitas to make Ofsted realise that a number of Islamic schools are unacceptably bad: not only do they fail to teach their pupils essential parts of the curriculum, but they also teach them that democracy is evil, that secular law must be replaced by sharia law, that women are inferior to men, and that homosexuals should be killed.

Ofsted, which was supposed to be inspecting the schools, hadn’t noticed any of that – or if it had, hadn’t thought it worth doing anything about it. It has now begun its own investigation, which I hope will be rather more thorough and effective than the Charity Commission’s investigation into Interpal. I also hope it will have some serious consequences, such as the closing down of schools which attempt to poison the minds of the young.

Read the lot.

There are a number of reasons for the failure to address this problem.

The first is that the abuses are so profound, that they can scarcely be believed. That a charity might be funding terrorism is so incredible that it just can’t be happening. That a school might be teaching the superiority of theocracy over democracy is such an appalling thought, that it must be a bigoted libel. Paradoxically, the worse the conduct of Islamist organisations, the more difficult it is for people to accept that they are actually behaving in this way.

The second is that, by means of partnerships with Government, and failures to enforce by regulators, Islamist groups have managed to establish themselves as mainstream. That makes it more difficult to point out their obvious failings.

Thirdly, Islamists, and their helpers, have managed to blur the distinction between being a Muslim, and the political philosophy of Islamism.  No white fascist group would be able to get away with the sorts of things that Islamist groups are given a pass on. However, within the public sector, there is an assumption that common standards should not be applied to all forms of extremism, and that it would be Islamophobic to do so.

Finally, there’s the whole ‘social cohesion‘ issue. We know that, during the meetings surrounding the most recent Interpal investigation, this is what happened:

During the Commission’s inquiry, a home office official is reported to have expressed concern that any adverse finding against Interpal that blocked funds might have a significant effect on community cohesion.

What they mean is this. An investigation in relation to a terrorist funding charity, or a school teaching extremism, will immediately be met by orchestrated outrage, demonstrations, pickets, and so on. Ministers begin to fear for their seats at the next election. I would imagine that precisely this form of pressure is presently being placed on Labour MPs over the Daud Abdullah affair.

We have to turn this situation around. But how?