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Fears over terror links meant crucial aid did not reach victims

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SEVERED BY THE BANK: Volunteers from Islamic Relief have hit the headlines in recent years for their hugely successful #Cakes4Syria campaign

SEVERED BY THE BANK: Volunteers from Islamic Relief have hit the headlines in recent years for their hugely successful #Cakes4Syria campaign

Banks block Muslim charity

A Muslim charity has confirmed that HSBC withdrew banking services over concerns about links to terrorism.

The charity, Islamic Relief, had its relationship with the banking giant severed in 2014, which meant that a payment to Nepal for the purchasing of tents for earthquake victims was blocked.

Following a report in the Sunday Times at the weekend about HSBC ending its ties with Islamic Relief over concerns that ‘cash for aid could end up with terrorist groups abroad’, the charity issued a statement saying it has been able to continue its charity work due to the services of other financial partners.  

However, the charity was ‘extremely surprised at HSBC’s stance’.

On their website they wrote: “We know that similar action has been taken by HSBC with other clients, so this appears to be generic risk-averse behaviour rather than something specific to Islamic Relief.

“Islamic Relief’s mission is to alleviate poverty and suffering where most needed, and that means we are committed to operating in complex conflicts where proscribed organisations are sometimes active.

“It appears that this is deemed a risk too far by HSBC but we continue to be trusted to deliver aid in such places by governments and by other financial institutions, and lives depend on our being able to do so.”

In 2014, HSBC closed the account of another charity that was helping victims in Gaza, the Ummah Welfare Trust, as well as other Muslim organisations such as the Finsbury Park Mosque.

Mohammad Ahmad, Trustee for the Ummah Welfare Trust, previously labelled the bank’s actions as ‘disappointing’ adding that it was not the first time the charity had suffered such a fate.

“Our understanding is that the account was closed because of links with the Gaza war,” he said in 2014. “It has happened previously during another conflict in the same area so it is disappointing to see it happen again.”

In a statement, Islamic Relief’s UK director Imran Madden said: “Islamic Relief shares concerns expressed across the charity sector and beyond that banks [by withdrawing their services]...will end up either denying aid to those who need it in certain parts of the world or forcing NGOs to transfer funds in ways that are less transparent than bank transfers.”

A statement, provided by HSBC, read: “We are not able to comment on any customer relationship. In general terms, decisions to end a customer relationship are not taken lightly, but are absolutely not based on the race or religion of a customer.

“Discrimination against customers on grounds of race or religion is immoral, unacceptable and illegal, and HSBC has comprehensive rules and policies in place to ensure race or religion are never factors in banking decisions.”