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LONDON: Concerns are mounting over the future of Britain’s Inter Faith Network, founded in 1997 to improve cohesion between religious communities, as the government considers scrapping its funding.

The Guardian reported on Friday that Communities Secretary Michael Gove had written to the IFN saying he was “minded to withdraw” £155,000 ($194,599) of provisional funding over concerns that one of its trustees was connected to the Muslim Council of Britain.

In the letter, sent Jan. 19, Gove wrote: “Successive governments have had a longstanding policy of non-engagement with the MCB. The appointment of an MCB trustee to the board of the Inter Faith Network — a government-funded organisation — poses a reputational risk to government.

“I am therefore minded to withdraw the provisional offer of £155,000 of new funding for 2023-24.”

Gove’s letter is linked to last July’s appointment of former MCB Assistant Secretary-General Hassan Joudi.

An MCB spokesperson told Arab News that no one was available for comment.

In a reply to Gove’s letter, the network said it had not been informed that funding was conditioned on not having trustees linked to the MCB, adding: “The IFN has also never been advised … to seek to expel the MCB from membership on the government’s position of non-engagement.”

Cooperation with the MCB was suspended in 2009 by the then-Labour government following accusations that it had supported violence against Israel.

In the 15 years since, successive Conservative governments maintained the suspension despite the MCB having changed its leadership and having some 500 national, regional and local Muslim organizations, mosques, charities and schools as its members.

The network noted: “Although government can choose not to engage with it, that is not a sensible option open to the IFN if it is to achieve the purposes for which the government funds it.”

One of the network’s co-chairs, Narendra Waghela, said: “It would be a very serious loss to the UK for the IFN to be forced into closure, particularly in turbulent and difficult times, which throw into sharp relief the importance of encouraging and supporting dialogue and cooperation.”

The IFN says its aim is to “advance public knowledge and mutual understanding of the teachings, traditions and practices of different faith communities in Britain … and to promote good relations between people of different faiths in this country.”

Almost two-thirds of its funding comes from the government.

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