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Inter Faith Network UK announces closure after government pulls funding


UK Government minister Michael Gove wrote to the charity to inform them of the decision

A charity working to build understanding between different religious groups across Britain has said it is set to close after a UK Government minister announced its funding would be ended in a row over the appointment of a trustee. 

Michael Gove MP, Secretary of State for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities, has written to the Inter Faith Network for the UK (IFN) informing them that he was "minded to withdraw" their funding after the appointment of Hassan Joudi, a former deputy secretary general of the Muslim Council of Britain (MCB), to the charity’s board.

The IFN has been operating for almost 40 years, but now looks set to close its door immediately. 

The UK Government confirmed the decision, but gave no further details on specific concerns surrounding the trustee’s appointment. 

A spokesperson told the BBC: "The government has held a consistent policy of non-engagement with the Muslim Council of Britain.

"Last year, an MCB member was appointed to the core governance structure of the Inter Faith Network. As a result, the government has decided to withdraw the offer of new funding."

Despite protestations in Westminster from MPs on Thursday, the government insisted that its position will not change.

The IFN - whose members include Interfaith Scotland - took an in principle decision on 7 February to move towards closure of the organisation.

This was confirmed at a meeting of the charity’s board on 22 February.

In a statement, the charity wrote ahead of Thursday’s meeting: “Continued uncertainty regarding Government funding to the Inter Faith Network has had a hugely damaging effect on the charity. 

“Continuing to operate without the £155,000 offered over six months ago has not proven possible, despite other fundraising efforts and IFN’s widely-acknowledged importance as a trusted and effective UK-wide body working to deepen understanding about and between different faiths and inter faith cooperation and to share information and good practice.

“The board is grateful to all the many individuals and organisations who have written to MPs and Ministers, started or signed petitions, made donations, and in other ways shown deep and often humbling support to IFN across the last year. It is also grateful to those parliamentarians who, on a cross-party basis, have offered support across this period – as well as across the period April to June 2023 where no funding was given following a 31 March letter from DLUHC saying that there would be no funding from 1 April.

”In preparing for IFN’s likely closure, the board will be looking across the coming weeks, with input from members and others, at whether and how particular strands of IFN’s work, including Inter Faith Week, may be taken forward for the future, as part of ensuring that positive inter faith relations in the UK can continue to be promoted effectively, particularly in the challenging environment we collectively face.”

The organisation is now on the path to closure and IFN Trustees and staff will be working to bring the organisation’s work to a close and to preserve its legacy in ways that enable others to build strongly on that in the future.

Following the meeting, the charity's co-chairs said: “It is not easy to see how IFN’s purpose (the value of which it has always been believed the government appreciates) could be achieved by sowing division - and division would certainly be sown if there was an attempt to expel from membership, without its having been proscribed, found guilty of illegal actions or in some way acted so as to bring reputational damage to IFN, an organisation that has among its members (and therefore represents) over 500 national, regional and local Muslim organisations, mosques, charities and schools.

"Although the government can choose not to engage with it, that is not a sensible option open to the IFN if it is to achieve the purposes for which the government funds it in the first place.”



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