Members of a government-funded Muslim anti-extremism organisation praised by the Prime Minister have been found to have made numerous anti-Semitic and homophobic comments on social media.
The Birmingham-based charity Odara is believed to have received over £150,000 of taxpayer money via the government’s counter-extremism Prevent program, for the work it does in running workshops for women. The charity prides itself on providing what it calls a ‘safe environment for discussion on issues like domestic violence, mental health and extremism’.
But Aysha Iqbal, leader and co-founder of Odara, and outreach worker Tasmiyah Bint Naeem were both found by the Daily Mail to have made numerous comments on Facebook of an anti-Semitic and homophobic nature.
Iqbal posted a series of videos suggesting that Israel was behind mass shootings in America. Posting a video entitled: Israel did Sandy Hook, Newtown CT School Massacres says Michael Harris, she wrote: “Truth be told.”
Bint Naeem shared in her colleague’s belief in conspiracy theories, posting a video which claimed 9/11 was an “inside job” with the comment “watch and think”.
In other posts to the social media platform, she referred to all Israelis as Zionists, a modern anti-Semitic trope, as well as commenting “may Allah destroy Zionists.”
And she expressed homophobic views, saying she would not want to “be in the company of those that are gay”, adding that she would not “embrace” homosexuality, she said: “Shoot me for my views… don’t care if times have changed.”
Odara was singled out last year by Theresa May, then as Home Secretary, who said she was “proud” to support the group in “working to stand up against the extremists who seek to divide us”.
The group was also singled out by Dame Louise Casey in her recent report – which was highly critical of self-segregation by British Muslim communities – as an organisation providing an example of how Muslim women with poor English language skills are being encouraged to integrate.
Yet sources from two groups who have considered working with Odara told the Mail that they had last year decided against it thanks to the group’s “homophobic and anti-Semitic views”.
When asked for comment, Iqbal said the posts were from 2013, before she began working on anti-extremism matters.
She claimed the comments had been “tongue in cheek”, but that she now realised how ‘inappropriate and offensive it appeared without the context’. She added that Bint Naeem had stopped working for Odara last month.
Bint Naeem said: “I want to make it very clear I am not homophobic or anti-Semitic. What has been picked up on are online profile statuses from a long time ago – since then I have developed personally and professionally and reject any of the views in question.”
Birmingham Labour MP Khalid Mahmood said: “Again this is an example of how the Home Office has been duped into supporting, recommending and funding organisations that spring up from nowhere.
“It is wrong that such groups are receiving Government money without first understanding what their role is in the community and whether they have any positive track record.”