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Interfaith Network leaders lament closure as govt pull funding over Islam council issue

by Will Hobbs

Christian, Sikh and Muslim leaders have expressed joint concern over the pending closure of the Inter Faith Network (IFN) due to a withdrawal of government funding.

The IFN was founded in 1987 as a charity to "make better known and understood the teachings, traditions and practices of the different faith communities in the UK" and to build "good relations between people of different faiths".

The organisation has heavily relied on taxpayer support, receiving £3.8 million from the government since 2010.

In January, however, the Telegraph revealed Levelling Up Secretary Michael Gove was "minded to end funding" due to having a member of the Muslim Council of Britain (MCB) on its board.

The government has refused to engage with the group ever since 2009,

when its deputy assistant secretary, Gowda Abdullah, signed the Istanbul Declaration, widely interpreted as calling for attacks on Royal Navy vessels enforcing a UN weapons blockade on Hamas-run Gaza.

Ibrhaim Mogra, another former deputy secretary of the MCB, insisted the man had not signed the declaration on the council's behalf, and said the council had refused the government's order to step him down, given he was "democratically elected" to the board, and had no legal charge against him.

He told the Religious Media Centre the MCB had been a leading contributor to the Inter Faith Network and that the government were only engaging with Muslim groups that were "favourable to the government's own agenda and policies".

Rt Rev Patrick McKinney, Bishop of Nottingham, says he struggles to understand the government's decision when he feels it "speaks so often about facilitating good community relationships and cohesion".

"It does excellent work in the promoting and coordinating of national interfaith events through interfaith week in particular.

"It plays an important part in the building of community cohesion, facilitating and encouraging good relationships across the various religious communities."

When asked for comment, the government replied:

"All funded organisations are monitored by the department and subject to internal finance and due diligence processes."

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