Islamic extremism is the “most deadly” threat to charities in England and Wales the UK Charity Commission has warned.
In an interview with The Sunday Times, chairman of the UK Charity Commission William Shawcross said: “The problem of Islamist extremism and charities is not currently widespread but is growing and is potentially the most deadly.”
The majority of his comments were focused on charities raising funds for causes in Syria, where a three-year civil war has drawn international attention of all kinds.
According to Mr Shawcross, the commission is taking action against the more dubious of those charities.
He said: “I’m sure that in places like Syria and Somalia it is very, very difficult for charities always to know what the end use of their aid is, but they’ve got to be particularly vigilant.”
He has also recently requested the prime minister take measures to stop those with terrorism convictions from setting up charities.
At present, those convicted of money laundering or terrorism are still permitted to set up charities and become trustees.
Mr Shawcross took on the role at the Charity Commission in October 2012, but Sunday’s interview is the first he has given since his appointment.
His selection as a chairman was highly criticised by Labour and the Liberal Democrats, who accused him of being a “Tory stooge”. The commission was slammed in a report from the National Audit Office and Margaret Hodge, chairwoman of the Commons public accounts committee, called it “not fit for purpose”.
More recently, Simon Gillespie, chief executive of the British Heart Foundation, raised concerns about the Charity Commission.
Speaking to Civil Society, Gillespie said: “The Charity Commission is wildly under-gunned to regulate large charities and does not have the skills and expertise to do it with any credibility.”
This came as a harsh blow to the regulator, as Gillespie was the director of operations at the commission from 2000 to 2004.