British Prime Minister David Cameron will lay out plans to “crack down on” charities suspected of having links with terrorist organizations on Wednesday, including a ban on people becoming trustees if they are linked to extremist activities.
While the Charity Commission has welcomed the policies, charities working within the UK’s Muslim communities warn they could be Islamophobic, and risk stripping away civil liberties.
The measures, outlined in a draft Protection of Charities Bill also allows the Charity Commission to remove a trustee if he or she is deemed unfit and would make it easier for charities to be shut down if an inquiry into corruption or mismanagement is opened.
The statement comes as Cameron holds meetings with his “extremism taskforce” to discuss the government’s ongoing counter-terrorism measures.
Speaking on the new measures, Cameron said additional protections were needed to tackle “the menace of extremism and those who want to tear us apart.”
“Today’s changes will help make sure that when people donate to charity, their money always goes to genuinely good causes,” he added.
The new measures come as the government investigates the Muslim Brotherhood, a political organization accused of promoting an ‘Islamist ideology’ encouraging young British Muslims to take up arms in Syria and Iraq and join Islamic State (IS/ISIS/ISIL).
Head of the Charity Commission Sir William Shawcross, whose organization has been accused of ‘disproportionately’ targeting Islamic charities, welcomed the PM’s amendments, saying the new powers will make the watchdog a “more efficient regulator.”
“We will play our full part in the pre-legislative scrutiny and will continue to push for more measures included in the consultation to be included in the bill,” he added.
However, Islamic charities in the UK have expressed concerns their organizations could be arbitrarily shut down, resulting in vulnerable people being left without vital support.
“The government has already turned up the heat on Muslim charities’ comments, and we’ve seen many charities’ bank accounts closed,” CAGE UK communications officer Amandla Thomas-Johnson told RT.
“The new laws will add suspicion on Muslim charities and will lead to suffering, and potentially a loss of life for people on the receiving end,” he added.
Thomas-Johnson also told RT the government was deliberately using the ongoing situation in Syria and Iraq to pass the new laws.
“The government is using the threat of IS to push through a raft of legislation that is empowering them further and stripping away our liberties. There is already legislation to deal with this issue and to have more is only adding fuel to the fire of suspicion against Muslim communities,” he said.
In August, Cameron called the fight against the IS a “generational struggle” and that the group posed a “greater and deeper threat” to the UK than any in its entire history.