From Civil Society Media
By Emily Corfe
A charity website advocated the killing of gay people and lapsed Muslims and described homosexuality as a "sick disease", the Charity Commission said in a report today.
A Commission investigation of historic material published on the Islamic Network's website also revealed statements referring to homosexuality as “perverted sexual behaviour” and an “evil and filthy practice” which is “even viler and uglier than adultery”.
The Commission found that the trustees had not implemented proper measures to monitor the website, and that articles were being posted without their knowledge.
A 2004 article on the site explained various punishments “in this world”, including that gay people should be “destroyed by fire”, “executed by being thrown from a great height” and “stoned to death”.
The investigation also unearthed a 2003 article that made reference to the circumstances when it is permissible to “spill the blood of a Muslim”.
The article states that “to all those who apostate from Islaam, by whichever method this may occur... it then becomes obligatory on the Muslims to kill him unless he returns to Islaam”. The article summarises “that a Muslim can be killed legally only for three crimes: a) adultery b) murder and c) apostacy”, the regulator said.
The Islamic Network came under scrutiny of the Charity Commission in November 2012 when the charity was visited as part of the Commission’s monitoring work. The Commission issued an “action plan” for the charity in February 2013, that offered “regulatory advice and guidance”.
But in August 2014, the regulator was made aware of public concerns about the inflammatory material on the charity’s website.
A inquiry was launched in 2014 and found that the content – which dated back to 2004 - was uploaded by volunteers under the guidance of former trustees who had since parted company with the charity.
The report revealed that “material was freely uploaded to the charity’s website and there was no mechanism in place by the trustees to vet the content before publication".
The charity’s chair told the regulator that neither he or the other current trustees had any knowledge of the articles' existence until they were made aware in August 2014.
Shortly after the material was discovered, the trustees took down the website and released a public statement condemning extremism and hate, according to the report.
'Should have done more'
But the Commission said that current trustees should have done more to monitor the content. It said that although the current trustees did take immediate action in taking down the website, they “were too slow in implementing their new policies designed to ensure extremism and hate material is not promoted”.
Michelle Russell, director of investigations, monitoring and enforcement, at the Charity Commission said the trustees held a responsibility for “ensuring steps are taken to remove clearly inappropriate content posted on their website straight away”.
“In cases of illegality such as hate crime or terrorist related material, they must report the matter to the police,” she said.
“Trustees carry ultimate responsibility for the operation and activities of charity, including for the content of their charity’s website and social media. Trustees are responsible for putting in place appropriate systems of control, to ensure that material posted on their charity’s website is suitable and appropriate for a charity.”
'Third party postings'
A spokesman for the charity told Civil Society News the charity "inherited" the website "over a decade ago with thousands of articles posted by unknown third parties overseas without our knowledge".
The articles were "offensive and hateful", and "did not reflect" the views of the charity or its anti-extremism policies, he said.
"We accept we had not completed the process of reviewing the articles as quickly as we should have done. However as soon as we were made aware of the existence of those articles the trustees removed the website with immediate effect," the spokesman said.
"We have now put in place strict new policies and procedures about hateful and offensive content on our website, social media and at our events. We would like to reiterate these are third party postings over a decade ago that the trustees were entirely unaware of," he said.
The Islamic Network is an organisation committed to education and in promoting positive community work, the spokesman said.
As part of the inquiry, the regulator also examined whether previous regulatory advice given to the charity in 2013 was being adhered to.
The inquiry concluded that the “current trustees were continuing to comply” with the earlier action plan and had “put in place a greatly improved process for risk assessing speakers”.
But it also concluded that the trustees needed to “take steps to better evidence their own decision making”.
The charity was registered in January 2004 with the sole objective of “the advancement of the Islamic religion”. Its mission is to “change lives” of a “section of society that is lost”, according to its website.