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Naz Shah MP, member of the Home Affairs Committee, has provided further evidence on Inspire, an organisation headed by Sara Khan – who has written to prominence as ‘ a vocal proponent of the government’s Prevent strategy’ [The Guardian, 28 October 2015].  In her written submission, Naz Shah notes,

 nspire claim to have been founded in 2009; no exact date is offered, merely the year, so it could have been at any time during those 12 months, it is not certain when. Some clarity over the exact date of founding would be worth seeking because of overlapping conflicts.

Inspire are listed in the TaxPayers’ Alliance report (2009) as having received funding from two London Boroughs for delivering Muslim Women’s leadership training. The funds received were £10,000 and £13,000 from Hounslow and Redbridge Councils respectively. The funds were released in the period 2008-09 and Inspire on their website list these two events are having been ‘organised by Inspire’.

The date of the Redbridge training programme was September 2008.  The date of the Hounslow training programme was October 2008. Inspire, by its own admission, was established in 2009. So who and what received the money from the London Boroughs in 2008?

The question is important because during this period (2008-09) Tahmina Saleem, a former employee of Inspire, was employed by Redbridge Council as its Prevent programme co-ordinator and Sabin Malik (Sara Khan’s sister) was employed by Hounslow Council as Principal Community Cohesion Officer.

Coming back to the question of ‘when’ in 2009 Inspire was established: the question is pertinent in light of a major conference hosted by Inspire in January 2009 at the London Muslim Centre and at which one of the keynote speakers was Sabin Malik, sister of Sara Khan. Malik at the time was employed byHounslow Council in the post of Principal Community Cohesion Officer.

So we have the problem of Inspire not legally existing in 2008 but providing training programmes in two London Boroughs where the sister of one (future) Director was employed and a (future) employee was employed, both on policy programmes related to Prevent. By any admission, this raises serious questions about the organisation’s claims to “independence”.

A related concern is that another Inspire Director, Kalsoom Bashir, at the time she joined the organisation (January 2011) was employed by Bristol City Council as the local authority’s ‘Prevent Lead Officer’. Again, this raises serious questions about the organisation’s independence when its employees and directors are steeped in the institutional framework of Prevent (local authorities) while soliciting funds for the “delivery” of Prevent programmes in communities.

 

.  .  . The second point relates more directly to conflict of interest and concerns Sara Khan’s sister who is employed in the Office for Security and Counter Terrorism. There are concerns that will inevitably rise about nepotism, transparency and independence when an organisation receiving financial support from the Home Office and championed by the Home Secretary has a close family member employed in that same Government department. Concerns about conflicts of interest are a legitimate area of inquiry for Members of the Committee and our Inquiry into Countering Extremism.

Inspire have suggested that my questions to them in the evidence session were a “personal attack” on Inspire. This is sanctimonious nonsense.

Inspire were invited to provide evidence to a select committee inquiry about Countering Extremism. It is inevitable that questions about the organisation’s work, its effectiveness, its funding, its alliances etc will be probed. These do not constitute “personal attacks”. They are reflective of the role my colleaguesand I on the select committee perform scrutinising work and holding those receiving public funds accountable to the British public whom we represent.

Secondly, my comment about Inspire being “amongst the most loathed organisations within Muslim communities” derives from my many encounters with Muslims living in my constituency and those residing in near and farther constituencies. I have heard firsthand from many British Muslims disdainful views of Inspire. It is my responsibility as an elected Member of Parliament to relay the views of my constituents and others and I am proud to do so.

Thirdly, Inspire take issue with questions raised about the effectiveness of those who have received funding, directly or indirectly, for Prevent delivery and the scale of the problem we now face in light of the numbers of young Muslims who are both referred to the authorities as being “vulnerable to radicalisation” and those who have travelled to Iraq/Syria in the last two years. These are legitimate questions which Members of Parliament, responsible for the oversight of Government policy, are minded to ask.

It is perfectly reasonable to inquire about who has received funding to date and how effective their activities have been when we are faced with a greater problem than before. These are questions that deserve thoughtful, evidenced answers and I will not demur from exercising my duty as a Member of the select committee and as an MP from seeking answers to questions so often asked by my constituents and British Muslims more widely. I would kindly suggest that should Inspire not wish for public scrutiny and accountability of their work, they should not avail themselves of public funds.’  For full submission click here.

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