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Charity ends at home

The media storm around the unmasking of ISIS executioner ‘Jihadi John’ in February provided an opportunity for the right-wing press to exert enormous pressure on anyone connected with the Muslim human rights group Cage.

Cage had revealed the enormous harassment and pressure that British citizen Mohammed Emwazi (‘Jihadi John’) had suffered from the British security services over several years, and argued that this was a major factor in his ‘radicalisation’.

The Quaker grant-making body, the Joseph Rowntree Charitable Trust (JRCT) came under pressure from the charity commission to disassociate itself from Cage.

On 27 February, JRCT released a statement defending its past grants to Cage, saying that Cage had ‘played an important role in highlighting the ongoing abuses at Guantanamo Bay and at many other sites around the world’.

JRCT also said Cage was ‘asking legitimate questions about security service contact with those who have gone on to commit high-profile and horrific acts of violence’.

A week later, on 6 March, JRCT were forced to release a further statement, saying: ‘In the light of regulatory pressure, and to protect the interests of all our grantees and the other work of Trust, we have decided to publicly confirm that we will not fund Cage either now or in the future.’

The Roddick Foundation, set up by Anita Roddick of the Body Shop, had given a similar undertaking on 2 March.

Between them, JRCT and the Roddick Foundation had made grants to Cage totalling £291,000 between 2007 and 2014.

Cage spokesperson Amandla Thomas-Johnson said: ‘We thank them for their past support. Both of these charities have played a significant role in contributing to the development of Muslim civil society here in the UK.’

He continued: ‘Cage will remain committed to its principle of speaking truth to power and calling for accountability and transparency. We will not hesitate in performing our role as whistleblowers and as advocates for due process.’

Former Daily Telegraph journalists Peter Oborne and Alex Delmar-Morgan revealed on OpenDemocracy that the charity commission had ‘sent either letters or emails to at least three other Muslim charities (there could be more) pressurising them not to fund Cage’.

The pair expressed concern at the commission’s ‘unprecedented’ actions, observing: ‘Parliament has never asked the commission to punish organisations for saying stupid things or wildly unpopular things.’

Oborne and Delmar-Morgan suggested that the charity commission showed signs of ‘turning itself into a political regulator as well as a charitable one’.


Disclosure of interest: Peace News has received grants from JRCT.