Monday, 30 March 2015

Exposure on Global Aid Trust

The fifth post in my series looking at the charities covered on ITV's documentary Exposure: Charities Behaving Badly. I previously looked at the Steadfast Trust (and its defence) and Hindu Swayamsevak Sangh (and its defence). Now, it is the turn of Global Aid Trust...

Narrator: "With the Islamic State making headlines across the world, reportedly assisted by around 500 fighters from Britain, the Prime Minister has been talking tough on combating the infrastructure that supports terrorism."

A clip from a speech by David Cameron is shown.

Narrator: "The charity commission recently began scrutinising 86 charities believed to be at risk from extremism; 37 of them are raising money for Syria. We want to find out whether charities could be contributing to young British Muslims joining the Jihad, so we sent in our third undercover reporter, Kabir. He's going to offer to work as a volunteer for Global Aid Trust, also known as GIT, that's raising money for Syria."

Kabir: "The evidence we have on GIT suggests there was indeed a need for undercover investigation, we knew the charity was hosting hate speakers."

Narrator: "Global Aid Trust was registered in 2008. In 2013 they received £625,000 of income. According to their profile on the Charity Commission's website, Global Aid Trust's purposes include 'advancing the education of the public', 'relieving sickness and preserving and protecting good health', and 'relieving financial hardship'."

The documentary cuts to undercover filming.

Shaffiq Shabbar.

Narrator: "Kabir starts work at Global Aid Trust. He's put in the charge of a man called Shaffiq who says he used to work at Heathrow Airport. Shaffiq reveals that his world view is not what you might expect from a charity worker: he's a big fan of hate preacher Anwar al-Awlaki, who recruited talent and planned terrorist operations for al-Qaeda and was the mentor of the attackers of Charlie Hebdo in Paris."

Shaffiq: "Anwar al-Awlaki, they spread loads of lies about him as well."

Kabir: "Who is Anwar al-Awlaki?"

Shaffiq: "You don't know who Anwar al-Awlaki is? He's a scholar and basically he was imprisoned and after he came out of prison, he started to incite hatred and telling Western Muslims to bomb. He incited bombings, basically. Bruv, he was a brilliant guy though."

The documentary cuts to a different bit of undercover filming.

Narrator: "Our reporter Kabir asks his supervisor Shaffiq whether it's still possible to go to Syria. Shafiq simply and without any cause assumes he means for fighting, not for aid work."

Kabir: "Is it still possible to go to Syria?"

Shaffiq: "You go to Turkey and jump over the border, and when I say jump over the border, I mean literally. You'll probably have al-Qaeda on the other side there to help you - it's very easy to go in. But the government, British government, if you're returning to Syria, guaranteed jail."

Kabir: "Really?"

Shaffiq: "Yeah. If you're going with, say, UNICEF or a recognised charity, then maybe they won't. Anyone who has gone, or will go, has to go with the intention of never coming home."

Narrator: "Shaffiq then goes on to suggest that fighting jihad in Syria is a duty justified by Islamic scriptures, known as Hadiths"

Shaffiq: "'On the gates of Damascus and on the gates of Palestine, there will be an army of might that will never stop fighting.' And other Hadiths say it's obligatory upon you, when this happens, Syria, you have to help. Doesn't mean you have to go there, but you have to help. Even by which ever means necessary. You can't just go there and start fighting. I tell you why: because you've never experienced this before, okay? You're going to be scared, and plus your training is not going to be enough. You're going to end up being a headache so other people are going to have to take care of you. So, for me to go there's no point."

The undercover footage ends.

Kabir: "I realised, some of my colleagues had very dangerous views and politics on Islam and the west. It was apparent that fighting abroad, to them, was a viable option with a religious justification. What stood out was just how easy it'd be for a young Muslim man to be indoctrinated and brainwashed into holding a rather dangerous point of view."

Return to undercover footage.

Narrator: "Kabir then meets Rizwan Hussain, who is Global Aid Trust's Chief Executive Officer, a trustee, and a director. He's also often the public face of the charity, appearing on stage and on television hosting Global Aid Trust fundraisers. Global Aid Trust is gearing up for an appeal on the online channel, Ramadan TV. Rizwan tells the team that the fundraiser will be for Gaza as well as Syria. He says for him it's personal, having briefly been detained by the Israelis."

Hussein: "When I talk about Gaza, I talk about a place I'm very connected with. I go there, sometimes I go through the tunnel. I was imprisoned in Israel, so I know what the situation is. They charged me with 'enemy of the state', I was a threat to national security."

Cut to a different piece of footage.

Narrator: "Rizwan also appears to make an antisemitic comment."

Rizwan Hussein.

Hussein: "They have these tunnels from the various parts of the West Bank as well as Jordan and other borders. And when a conflict hits, these tunnels what cost you £100 to drive a car through into Gaza, costs you £2000."

Kabir: "Who's in charge of those tunnels?"

Hussein: "Gangsters, Jewish people. They sell it, they sell these tunnel routes."

Narrator: "We've researched this point. We can find no reference to Jewish people being in charge of any tunnels into Gaza."

We are shown footage  from a Ramadan TV show, where Shaffiq Shabbar comments on the crisis faced by Syrian refugees.

Narrator: "It's the day of the Ramadan TV fundraiser. Our reporter Kabir is taking calls from donors. Kabir's supervisor Shaffiq takes his seat on the sofa."

The two resident experts Chetan Bhatt and Francesca Quint again appear on the documentary.

Bhatt: "What's striking about it is that it's glossing over completely the nature of Anwar al-Awlaki's ideas, and they included for example things like the war against unbelievers and the killing of unbelievers must go on until the end of all time. To simply say that Anwar al-Awlaki's a brilliant guy is to ignore this evidence."

Quint: "To encourage an innocent volunteer to think that it's alright to behave like terrorists, and actually making a hero out of a terrorist."

Narrator: "Are you shocked by it?"

Quint: "I'm very shocked by it."

A return to undercover footage.

Narrator: "Global Aid Trust has organised an event on a board sailing down the river Thames. It's to feature speakers and raise funds for relief in Syria and in Gaza. Our reporter Kabir is out with his supervisor Shaffiq and paid member of staff Tanveer to deliver tickets to the event. 19-year-old Tanveer is in charge of booking the speakers."

Kabir: "What is the procedure with calling in speakers? Like, what if it's a dodgy guy?"

Tanveer: "That's what they start saying, 'check if they're banned in this area' and I'm all like 'you haven't taught me how to check', but you tell me to run them through the Home Office and I'm like, 'how do I do that?'"

Kabir: "Who asked you to do that?"

Tanveer: "Rizwan."

Narrator: "He said he checked with CEO Rizwan Hussein, but he wasn't much help."

Tanveer: "I was like, 'how do I do it?', completely got ignored so..."

This footage is shown to Francesca Quint.

Quint: "It's a disgrace. There may be incompetence at the lower levels of the volunteers, but there's no excuse for the people who should know better not to take these matters seriously. The CEO is the employee of the trustees of the charity. The trustees of the charity must have regards to what is being done in their name by their employees."

We are shown footage from videos uploaded by "Dawah Man".

Narrator: "The day of the boat party has arrived. The guest speaker booked by the charity is a preacher called Dawah Man. Dawah Man has a friendly online persona; he has a 100,000 likes on Facebook. But when he appears at live events he makes controversial speeches."

We see a clip from one of Dawah Man's speeches, although what he is saying is mainly inaudible.

Narrator: "Dawah Man was recently banned from speaking at the University of East London because he called homosexuality a 'filthy disease'. He reveals that no=one at Global Aid Trust has briefed him  on what he's there to talk about, or even the reason for the event."

Cut to undercover footage of Dawah Man at the event.

Dawah Man: "What is our role today?"

Second man: "Bruv, you know what, I don't know nothing but freestyle."

Dawah Man: "Honestly, I'm telling you that if you say that to me, I'll say some stuff... come on brother, that's not nice. Give me guidelines, or I'll talk about jihad or something, or the ISIS crisis."

Narrator: "Dawah Man then launches into an apparently antisemitic speech."

Dawah Man: "America, European countries, whatever you call it, these countries are controlled by Zionists. Because if you look at the biggest bankers in the world that fund these countries, they are Zionists, and Zionists run Israel.  So we can safely say that anytime there was an American or English or whatever invasion of the Muslim lands, it is all a problem coming back to the children of Israel. Allah, it would seem ,is punishing the greatest ummah [community] alive by the worst ummah alive."

Narrator: "After the event, Kabir catches up with Dawah Man and another speaker, Musa Adma. He asks them about the purpose of their speeches."

Musa: "Essentially we cannot tell them , 'go on jihad'. We can't tell them that. You know why we can't tell that. But what we can tell them is to learn the Qu'ran, to start praying. Once they have the iman in their heart and they feel that the ummah's problem is their problem, they will start to act by themselves.

Dawah Man: "The first level is to worship, the second level is on top of that worship with more action. The more action you give, the more charity you give, the more dawah you make, the more you go there, whether you make jihad peaceably or you make jihad defending your brothers and sisters."

Kabir: "What if you have an option, if I have an option to go and help?"

Dawah Man: "And you're already someone who's praying? And you think you can go? Then go. If I go over there I'll probably be less helpful here as I can be here. But there could be someone here who's a doctor maybe, who's got money, who's got strength, he can go over there. He'll be more help there than he will be here. So you have to ask yourself, 'what can I do for this ummah?' Everyone must ask that question."

Kabir: "If a person comes to the realisation that he's probably more helpful in Syria than he is here raising money for them, and his faith is strong, you know...?"

Dawah Man: "Do you want to go to Syria? At the borders or in Syria?"

Kabir: "In Syria."

Dawah Man: "May Allah give you the power to keep you sincere, guide you every step of the way."

Narrator: "At a charity event, an influential speaker, far from dissuading our reporter from joining the struggle in Syria, is instead offering him a blessing. I want to ask Dawah Man a few questions. Eventually we find him at his mother's flat.

The documentary shows host Mark Austin meeting Dawah Man.

Austin: "We have video of you saying that many of the wars in the world are caused by Jews. Is that what a charity like the Global Aid Trust should be espousing?"

Dawah Man: "No, sir, I never said that. I said the majority of the conflicts and the wars against the majority of the Muslim countries go back to Zionists. Now Zionism is a political ideology that is not just specifically..."

Austin: "Did you not think that's antisemitic?"

Dawah Man: "Not at all, because there's Christians that are Zionists - in fact, believe it or not, there are some Muslims that are Zionists!"

Austin: But my problem here is that this is inflammatory, it's antisemitic... is it right that a charity - it has charitable status - should be inviting you to talk like this?"

Dawah Man: "My question to you, sir, is how can you say it's antisemitic when it's about the Zionists..."

Austin: "You were saying that the wars of the world go back to the children of Israel."

Dawah Man: "I didn't say that! I said that it goes back to the Zionists. The problem refers back to the children of Israel, just as much the problem refers back to the people of Gaza there, because they're both a party to the conflict. I'm not saying the problem ARE the children of Israel, the problem is the Zionists. They're two separate entities."

Austin: "Also, saying it's okay going to fight jihad in Syria...?"

Dawah Man: "On the contrary, if you go and look at my videos recently, all I've ever said is not to go there. From what I remember, this guy... either he was a Muslim or he was posing as a Muslim, so I'm speaking to him at least with the understanding that he understands the concept of Jihad in the broader technical sense. Anyone who knows the word jihad from an Islamic theological perspective knows that jihad in no way, shape or form exclusively refers to fighting."

We are then shown Global Aid Trust's response to the accusations.

"We firmly condemn and reject comments made by Shaffiq Shabbar and the external speakers. We express our great regret at these incidents, which were the result of a process failure in the organisation. GAT no longer employs Mr Shabbar and Tanvir Khan; both were temporary workers. 
Mr Shabbar indicated no extremist tendencies during his job interview and the remit of their roles was made clear to them. Rizwan Hussein has now stepped down as CEO and Trustee of GAT. It has never been suggested that he has made any comment that could be deemed to be racist, anti-Semitic or inciting hatred. However, he understands that his comments could be cast in a certain light and accepts he made an error in phrasing them. 
When booking speakers, we require completion of a due diligence form by the CEO - or Director of Operations, and clear instructions are given in respect of speakers booked. On this occasion the form was completed and a script was requested from the speaker but not provided, and the event went ahead. The staff member responsible was suspended and resigned thereafter. As soon as this incident was highlighted to us we made a decision not to book Dawah Man again. 
We have processes to make sure we carry out our work to the highest standards. We accept that some of these processes have failed and have taken remedial action, and consulted a number of experts to assess and help us devise new, robust processes and policies to improve internal governance. We apologise to our supporters and those for whom distress is caused, and will do our utmost to ensure no such situations occur again." 
Austin: "Just over a year ago, the charity commission was described as 'not fit for purpose' by a House of Commons committee, and a highly critical report by the national audit office warned that the regulator's failures risked undermining public faith in charities. We gave the Charity Commission two days to consider our findings."

Cut to Austin speaking to Michelle Russell, head of investigations and enforcement at the Charity Commission.

Austin: "What is your initial reaction to what you've seen there?"

Russell: "The footage you've showed me there clearly damages public trust and confidence in charities. It's absolutely shocking..."

Austin: "Why don't you simply deregister them?"

Russell: "Legally, we can't."

Austin: "So you can't just close down these organisations as a charity?"

Russell: "No. We haven't got the power to deregister a charity because it's a bad charity."

Austin: "Who can deregister a charity?"

Russell: "The trustees have power to close down a charity if it ceases to operate..."

Austin: "Trustees of...?"

Russell: "...The charities themselves."

Austin: "The charities...? The trustees of the charities are very unlikely to close themselves down."

Russell: "I know, it's..."

Austin: "I think the public would be quite shocked to hear that you can't do that."

Russell: "And that's why the draft charities bill... we've asked for a specific power for us to wind up a charity that we think is no longer fit for purpose."

Austin: "So, so you admit that, at the moment, with the authority you have you are failing to regulate charities effectively?"

Russell: "Absolutely not, I think that we would say that we are taking regulatory action to charities. The number of enquiries - which are investigations that we carry out - has risen significantly, particularly over the past years..."

Austin: "But to me, if these charities are existing, this suggests to me and perhaps to people watching this that you are failing."

Russell: "Well, two out of three of those organisation that you flagged up here, we have got live cases into looking at them. The first one that you have showed up on the footage... our view is that Steadfast is not a charity and never was a charity."

Austin: "And you think it will cease to be a charity very soon?"

Russell: "Well, we have issued and given notice that we intend to remove it from the register of charities because it is not a charity, and that process will take its course in the next couple of months."

Austin: "The second charity we looked at..."

Russell: "Global Aid Trust is an organisation where we already have existing engagement with the charity into similar concerns which you're raising there. The evidence that you've got will be added to the existing evidence of the issues that we're dealing with already."

Austin: "Do you think that when it comes to HSS, that is an abuse of charitable status?"

Russell: "My view from what Ive seen in the footage that showed me is that there is a serious cause for concern about the potential evidence of misconduct and mismanagement in the administration of the charity by the trustees."

Austin: "Just to be clear though, you can't close down the charity, but you can remove some of the people from it?"

Russell: "If there's sufficient evidence for misconduct, mismanagement, and the reason for that is the individual trustee's behaviour that is responsible for that, then there are limited circumstances where we can excercise our powers to do it."

Austin: "But the bottom line is, the charity can be hijacked by fascist  and extremists, you really can't do anything about it."

Russell: "We really don't have the power to shut down an ineffective or a troubling charity in that way."

The documentary wraps up with this statement:
"The Charity commission has confirmed it is investigating the serious concerns raised by Exposure about Global Aid Trust and HSS (UK). They have removed the Steadfast Trust from the Register of Charities."
Austin: "The combination of the rise in extremism so often in the headlines, and government budgets being cut, has resulted in some UK registered charities being used for some very uncharitable purposes It's time we took a closer look at who we're giving our money to, because not everything they do is necessarily for a good cause."

As before, I will take a closer look into the charity myself with the final post in this series.

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