Muslim charity’s board steps down over antisemitism row

The entire board of the UK’s largest Muslim charity is stepping down after it emerged that the man drafted in to replace a trustee who made antisemitic comments online had himself posted offensive comments on Facebook.

Islamic Relief Worldwide (IRW) said in a statement that posts made by Almoutaz Tayara were “offensive and unacceptable, and in no way reflect the views and core values of the organisation”. Tayara was quoted as saying he was “deeply ashamed” of the comments.

They included an antisemitic cartoon and praise for the leaders of the militant Palestinian organisation Hamas, the Times reported. It was the second time in under a month that Islamic Relief Worldwide has come under scrutiny over comments by senior officials.

Tayara joined the board when trustee Heshmat Khalifa stepped down in July, after it was revealed that he had described Egypt’s president, Abdel Fatah al-Sisi, as a “pimp son of the Jews” and labelled Israeli authorities “grandchildren of monkeys and pigs”.

In the wake of that scandal, Naser Haghamed, IRW’s chief executive, said he was appalled by the unacceptable posts and promised extra vetting for current and future board members. “We have to do everything in our capacity to make sure this does not happen again,” he said.

Tayara was appointed to replace Khalifa, but he too had shared offensive posts on his Facebook account, in his case while working for the independent affiliate Islamic Relief Germany in 2014 and 2015.

The items on his personal Facebook account included a cartoon that showed the former US president Barack Obama wearing clothing with a star of David, with regional Shia leaders shouting “Death to Israel” and “Death to America”.

Tayara also described Hamas leaders as “great men” who “responded to the divine and holy call of the Muslim brotherhood”, the Times reported. The UK designated Hamas’s military wing in 2001 a terrorist organisation.

The posts were first uncovered by a researcher and made public in Germany in 2017, when Tayara was the chairman of Islamic Relief Germany. He was allowed to stay in the post after apologising and deleting his Facebook account.

Tayara told the Times he was not antisemitic. Someone else posted the cartoon and he chose to repost it because it “was referring to the Iranian, [Shia] involvement in the war in Syria and the region”.

IRW said it had only become aware of the posts this week, but questions are likely to be asked about vetting given that the affiliate knew about them.

An entirely new board would be selected on Saturday as part of “far-reaching governance reforms”, the charity said. It was also reviewing the screening process for new trustees and senior executives, and its social media policies.

Tayara had also stepped down from the board of the International Waqf Fund, IRW’s specialist subsidiary for charitable investments, the charity said.

IRW, which has its headquarters in Birmingham, works in more than 40 countries to deliver emergency and development aid.