The Islamic Centre of England, one of Britain’s prominent Shia mosques located in London, has found itself at the centre of controversy and has temporarily closed its doors. The closure follows the appointment of a non-Muslim interim manager by the Charity Commission, which has been investigating the centre since a vigil for the assassinated Iranian general Qasem Soleimani took place there in 2020. The closure has sparked concerns within the Muslim community and raised questions about political motivations and the preservation of Muslim self-determination.
Concerns and Shut Down
The Islamic Centre of England, affiliated with Iran, has been the subject of scrutiny from both the Charity Commission and British officials, who have called for its closure. The vigil held for General Soleimani triggered an investigation by the Charity Commission, and the recent appointment of a non-Muslim interim manager has further heightened tensions. The centre’s management, supported by the Friends of Islamic Centre, has encouraged trustees not to cooperate with the Charity Commission, citing political motivations influenced by Zionist groups and Islamophobes.
Challenges to Muslim Self-Determination
The statement released by the Friends of Islamic Centre expresses concern over the interference of state apparatus and the imposition of non-Muslim individuals with decision-making powers within a Muslim institution. It alleges that this action undermines Muslim self-determination and attempts to enforce a state-sponsored version of Islam. The appointment of a non-Muslim interim manager is seen as an act of disrespect and marginalisation, further alienating Muslims from their places of worship.
Charity Commission Inquiry
The Charity Commission initiated a statutory inquiry into the Islamic Centre of England in November 2022, citing serious governance concerns. Following the trustees’ failure to fulfill their legal duties and protect the charity’s assets, an interim manager, Emma Moody, was appointed on May 4, 2023. Moody, from Womble Bond Dickinson (UK) LLP, will assume the powers and duties of the trustees and conduct a review of the centre’s governance and administration. The interim manager’s appointment aims to restore and improve the charity’s governance standards.
Calls for Resistance
The Friends of Islamic Centre, comprising regular attendees and supporters of the centre, have urged the management and trustees to actively resist what they perceive as attacks on the Muslim community’s integrity. They emphasise the need for the trustees to convey their opposition to the Charity Commission’s actions and its disrespect towards Muslims. Failure to address these concerns is believed to have undesirable consequences.
Government Response and National Security
Security Minister Tom Tugendhat recently labelled the Islamic Centre of England a “vile threat” to the country. He highlighted the government’s determination to address the presence of such “cultural centres” in Britain and the concerns surrounding the influence of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) and its proxy organisations. Tugendhat’s statements reflect a broader concern for national security and the potential impact of these centres on society.
The closure of the Islamic Centre of England in London has generated significant controversy within the Muslim community. The appointment of a non-Muslim interim manager by the Charity Commission, alongside calls for the centre’s closure from government officials and Zionist organisations, has raised questions about political motivations and Muslim self-determination. As the investigation and interim management continue, it remains to be seen how this situation will unfold and what implications it may have for the relationship between religious institutions and state oversight.