The entire board of Britain’s biggest Muslim charity resigned yesterday after it emerged that it had replaced a disgraced director with a man who called Hamas terrorists “heroes” and described Israel as the Zionist enemy.
The Times revealed that Almoutaz Tayara, recently appointed to the board of Islamic Relief Worldwide (IRW), posted messages glorifying terrorist attacks on Israel and showing former US president Barack Obama in clothing branded with the Star of David.
Another director, Heshmat Khalifa, resigned from IRW last month amid an uproar over revelations about his own social media activity, which included posts calling Israelis the “grandchildren of monkeys and pigs” and Egypt’s president a “pimp son of the Jews”.
Birmingham-based IRW told The Times that the Facebook posts by Dr Tayara were “inappropriate and unacceptable”. Its board of trustees has resigned and an “entirely new board” was due to be elected on Saturday.
Dr Tayara, also the chairman of Islamic Relief Germany, described on Facebook the leaders of the militant Palestinian organisation, Hamas, as “great men” who responded to the “divine and holy call of the Muslim Brotherhood”. Hamas’s military wing, the Izz al-Din al-Qassem Brigades, has been designated by the UK and the EU as a proscribed terrorist organisation since 2001.
Dr Tayara wrote: “The al-Qassem heroes did not graduate from the military academies of the UK and the US, unlike the rulers and royals of the Arab world who, there, were nurtured on cowardice and allegiance to the foreigners — the UK and the US.”
In another post on July 14, 2014, he wrote: “For the eighth consecutive day, the Al Qasseem Brigades have engaged… in response to Zionist aggression. They revealed one of their surprise [tactics] to be the dispatch of a number of their unmanned aerial vehicles to carry out special missions in the heart of Zionist territory, while continuing to strike the enemy’s spoils and positions.”
The posts by Dr Tayara, in Arabic, were uncovered by a German researcher, Sigrid Herrmann-Marschall, who published them in a 2017 blog post.
Mr Khalifa's messages were discovered by Lorenzo Vidino, Director of the Programme on Extremism at George Washington University and an expert on Islamism in Europe and North America.
Islamic Relief Germany admitted that it had known of Dr Tayara’s posts since 2017 but allowed him to continue as its chairman after he apologised, deleted the posts and closed his Facebook account.
IRW works to alleviate poverty and hunger in more than 40 countries.
It has often faced allegations of Islamist links – claims that have always been vigorously denied by the charity.
Last year, the German government said IRW had “significant ties” to the Muslim Brotherhood, an allegation IRW said was “mistaken and unfounded”.
When Mr Khalifa’s Facebook posts were revealed in July, IRW said it was “appalled by the hateful comments”. It said it condemned antisemitism, rejected terrorism, had no political affiliations and sought to uphold the “highest standards of neutrality”. It also pledged that it was “reviewing our processes for screening trustees’ and senior executives’ social media posts to ensure that this will not happen again”.
The charity told The Times that Dr Tayara’s posts also ran against its values. He would step down and “play no further part in the governance of IRW”. It is understood that IRW did not know of the posts until it was contacted several days ago by The Times.
The Charity Commission said last night that it had “requested an urgent meeting with the incoming board” to discuss the allegations.
Dr Tayara told The Times he was “deeply ashamed” of his posts, adding that the comments were “unacceptable”. He said that when he published them, he was in a state of distress owing to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. He had apologised in 2017 to the board of Islamic Relief Germany, making it clear that “these were not and are not my beliefs”. “I do not support any terrorist movement. I do not support the Muslim Brotherhood or the Izz al-Din al-Qassem Brigades. I am not an antisemite,” he said.
Islamic Relief Germany said that when it became aware of Dr Tayara’s comments in 2017, it was “shocked by the anti-western and anti-Israel content of the posts partially glorifying violence and terrorism”. He had, however, given “outstanding support” to the charity for more than a decade.
When Mr Khalifa’s antisemitic posts were revealed last month, it was agreed that he would not seek re-election when his term ended in October.
President of the Board of Deputies, Marie van der Zyl, said: “We are extremely disturbed at reports that yet another director of Islamic Relief Worldwide has been found to have shared antisemitic material online.
“Once is disgraceful. Twice speaks to a deep-seated problem and it is significant that the whole Board of Trustees has now resigned. We hope the Charity Commission will investigate and that those still associated with the organisation will engage in some serious soul-searching.”