Amina Admits to Taking Counter-Extremism funds

Take Onwership workshop, Falkirk, December 2016

Amina Muslim Women's Resource Centre (MWRC) was given £21,000 by the Scottish Government for "Educating Against Extremism" in the year ending 31 March 2016, according to a report and financial statement filed at Company House. The grant was used to fund Amina's Take Ownership workshops. This sits awkwardly with Amina's claim in March that the workshops were "not funded through UK Prevent."

The "Educating Against Extremism" funds are not described in the accounts as being linked to Prevent, but Prevent is the Government policy for dealing with extremism. It would be astonishing if Government funds for educating against extremism were not part of the Prevent framework.

From late 2015 until May 2016, Amina was listed as supporting the Together Against Prevent statement, which includes a pledge to take no funds from Prevent. Amina's support for the statement was removed in May at its own request.

Amina used the "Educating Against Extremism" funds to run a series of workshops called Take Ownership. It says in its report:

"Following on from the reported increase in young people across the UK being radicalised by extremist ideologies, Scottish Government funding allowed for Amina to deliver pilot interactive workshops, Take Ownership to over 100 young people (14-25 years old) across 5 different locations. The aim of the workshops was to empower young people to be active members of their community, encourage them to feel proud of their Scottish Islamic identity and provide a safe space for them to discuss issues that may affect them such as islamophobia, internet safety as well as deconstructing arguments posed by groups like ISIS."

Parents of children attending the workshops would perhaps be surprised and insulted to learn that the workshops were part of a programme intended to educate against extremism.

The apparent link to Prevent also raises concerns that Amina staff may be prepared, in line with Prevent policy, to report people to the police if they believe them to be vulnerable to radicalisation.

Amina received £15,000 from the Scottish Government in the previous year  (ending 31 March 2015) for "tackling radicalism". An earlier article on the SACC website said: "It seems likely that the grant was used to fund Amina's Take Ownership workshops". If the 2016 funding covered the whole of the Take Ownership costs (it isn't clear whether that is the case), that guess would be wrong. But the 2015 report does not explain what the "tackling radicalism" grant was used for.

Kevin Blowe, coordinator of Netpol, who publish the Together Against Prevent statement, says that Netpol was contacted by Amina Chief Executive Samina Ansari in May, asking why they had been added to the statement without their permission. He says:

"We gave the name of the person who signed and were informed that this individual no longer worked for the Resource Centre and that any decision required Board approval.

Of course, we therefore immediately removed Amina MWRC's name from the list of supporters as its decision to support Together Against Prevent was disputed. We understood that the Centre's board planned to discuss whether to formally add its support at an upcoming meeting.

I can confirm that currently, however, the Resource Centre has not yet decided to sign up as a supporter of Together Against Prevent."

The Together Against Prevent statement provides a valuable focus for organisations trying to take a genuine stand against Prevent. Amina ought not to sign up to it unless they are willing to provide a clear explanation for their earlier conduct, acknowledge their mistakes,  and make a credible commitment to support non-cooperation with Prevent.

Amina says in its 2016 report:

"Amina - the Muslim Women's Resource Centre has developed a fundraising strategy designed to diversify the sources of funding, and increase sustainable fundraising streams, for the period beyond 2016. In addition to applications to a range of statutory and charitable trust funds, the plans for community based fundraising and individual donations will bring in increased levels of funding from this stream during the forthcoming financial years."

Diverse funding could help Amina to be independent of Government policy, but will only do so if it avoids major funders who are themselves aligned with Government policies.

The financial report for Amina for the year ending 31 March 2016 (filed in August 2016) can be freely downloaded from Company House.