Sunday, 17 July 2011

Charitable hiatus

Supporters of the Council for Ex-Muslims received a sad e-mail from Maryam Namazie, the Council’s spokesperson, this week.
For those who don’t know what this group does, it supports anyone who has renounced the Islamic faith – thus rendering them ‘apostates’ in the eyes of devout Muslims and possible hate targets of the lunatic fringe of that faith. Check the ‘One Law for All’ link to the right of the page for more details.
In Maryam’s own words: “..breaking the taboo that comes with renouncing Islam and challenging a movement that sentences apostates to death – is considered ‘controversial’ to say the least and makes it almost impossible to get support from mainstream funders.”
This means the tiny group’s volunteers start off fighting thugs and prejudices with both hands tied behind their backs. But now there is an extra handicap, courtesy of the England and Wales Charity Commission, which has just refused charitable status.
In its refusal letter the Charity Commission says: “Under English law the advancement of religion is a recognised charitable purpose and charities are afforded certain fiscal privileges by the state. The prohibition of any such financial privilege as called for in the demand made in the Manifesto would require a change in law. Similarly a separation of religion from the state and legal and education system would appear to require both constitutional reform and change to the law.”
As Maryam aptly comments: “There is something fundamentally wrong when the Council of Ex-Muslims of Britain can’t get charity status but the Sharia Council legislating misogyny in its sharia courts can. And how absurd that defending secularism is not a charitable object but advancing religion is, particularly in this day and age when we are living under an Islamic Inquisition.”
Time for decent folk to come to their aid, I suggest.
But if the England and Wales Charity Commission can sometimes be bollock-brained, and the Scottish and Northern Irish equivalents are not far behind, at least there are structures in place which allow responsible folk to check where the coins they throw in the bucket actually go, who runs the charities, how much they get paid, who pulls the strings externally and so on.
In the Isle of Man? Nothing but obfuscation and minimal public information by the government department charged with keeping tabs on bogus charities – or as I often suspect, preventing the public from noticing just how hand in glove some of the worst civil servants are with some of the island’s most bigoted pressure groups.
For example, to the casual reader this (see looks like common sense. However, once you track the way the Manx government sets up puppet charities for functions which are properly the business of social services (in order to meet most running costs with grants from UK charities), and if you regard the IOMCVO itself as little more than a government puppet (largely run by people whose first point of contact is government e-mail and phone numbers), then you might be cynical.
The new thresholds mean that key social service functions are run by organisations which, by being registered as ‘charities’, have no basic staff and management details on public record, whose policies cannot be scrutinised, whose accounts are not on public record, which in many cases also avoid any external verification of accounts (which, in practice, means the puppet committee depends on the word of the puppet treasurer that books are kept), and the largest of whom avoid audit by anyone who, in theory, is professionally obliged to offer an objective report of their findings.
And you thought the worst Manx joke this week was the ‘election’ of a President of Tynwald who has had no mandate from the electorate in almost two decades.

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