This blog has published many and varied articles about the often questionable behaviour and dubious probity of the British ‘Islamophobia’ monitoring group, Tell Mama. On Fahrenheit211 there are stories, often backed by personal testimonies and references from other media outlets, not only about how Tell Mama have played fast and loose with the truth but also showing how they will exploit anyone or anything in order to advance their ‘Islamophobia’ narrative.
Tell Mama think nothing, for example, about exploiting those with catastrophic mental illness, running proven fake stories on their website as fact, or partnering with groups who have a political interest in muzzling Britain’s free press. They will seize on just about anything they can in order to legitimise their false claim that there is a ‘rising tide’ of unjustifiable hatred aimed at British Muslims.
Tell Mama are a disgusting and dangerous organisation, their antics do a great disservice to those who do have a genuine wish to help people of different races and creeds live together in peace and freedom. Fiyaz Mughal OBE, the founder of Tell Mama, and several other ‘front’ organisations, may delude himself that he is some sort of fighter for justice but the more that he and his organisations are examined, the more it becomes clear that Fiyaz Mughal is no ‘Dr King’, far from it. As an example, I cannot imagine Dr King running an easily debunked story about a Hijab’d Muslim in Birmingham, in Britain’s West Midlands, being attacked, following the Paris attacks of November 2015.
Tell Mama’s parent organisation Faith Matters, also run by Fiyaz Mughal, along with Tell Mama itself, has been very adept in cultivating support from what can roughly be called ‘the great and the good’. The list of Faith Matters patrons is impressive; it includes senior Churchmen, high profile Rabbis and well known activists such as Peter Tatchell. Tell Mama has also managed to get the support of senior management from the organisation that provides security for many of Britain’s synagogues, the Community Security Trust, much to the chagrin of those of us among the political Right of Britain’s Jewish community, who feel that the CST should not be giving political legitimacy to Tell Mama or any other of Fiyaz Mughal’s groups.
The presence of these high profile and some well respected patrons, along with the deep-seated and long term contacts that Tell Mama and its staff have with and over a number of Britain’s police forces and the criminal prosecutors, The Crown Prosecution Service, have contributed to Tell Mama’s reputation in the United Kingdom as ‘the Teflon Taqiyya artists’. No matter how much factual dung that is thrown at them, facts that would have sunk many other organisations of a similar type, Tell Mama, like some sexually transmitted infections, always seem to be with us. They have been protected quite unjustifiably, and furthermore their cause has been advanced by some elements of the Establishment and by some other well-meaning but sometimes naïve groups and individuals.
Tell Mama have used their contacts, associates and influence to attack newspapers who publish stories critical of Islam and they have worked with the Hacked Off organisation to call for censorship of press articles that take a less than supportive attitude to Islam. They also harass those who speak negatively about Islam on social media, using what is alleged to be a network of supporters who troll those who are anti-Islam, especially those who criticise Tell Mama. The group also works with those who watch Facebook and Twitter constantly, in order to find people saying nasty, but often valid, things about Islam, which Tell Mama then report to the police, who shamefully are sometimes all too willing to do Tell Mama’s bidding. These actions also help to burnish Tell Mama’s unwarranted image that they are fighters against injustice, when in reality what they really want to do is shut down people’s right to speak negatively about Islam.
Tell Mama’s activities would be a joke, they give enough material to the world that you could probably write a half-decent comedy sketch about them, but for the fact that their activities are having nasty real world effects. Tell Mama’s contacts with police forces and the Crown Prosecution Service have been used by Tell Mama and its staff to drag people through the criminal courts on various spurious charges of ‘Racial and Religious Harassment‘ and similar charges.
There is a lot to dislike about Tell Mama and the way they behave and on many occasions the articles that this blog has published about them have had an element of humour and mockery about them. However, whilst writing this particular piece, I find that the only emotion I can feel is anger.
To explain why I’m angry, we need to go back almost to the beginning of the existence of Tell Mama, specifically to the time period following the Islamic murder of Fusilier Lee Rigby in Woolwich, South London in 2013. After the murder of Fusilier Rigby, Fiyaz Mughal of Tell Mama was given extensive media coverage in the UK. Mughal appeared on the BBC, speaking about an ‘unprecedented’ rise in Islamophobia and attacks on Muslims and their property. Many took the words of the Tell Mama organisation at face value but there were some journalists, namely Andrew Gilligan of the Telegraph, who looked more closely at the Tell Mama figures and found them wanting. He and others discovered that Tell Mama’s figures were not as they seemed at first. Tell Mama were treating people saying unkind, but also sometimes true things about Islam in the same column as genuine physical attacks on persons and property.
When the story broke about this sort of mendacity, Tell Mama’s main funders, the Department of Communities and Local Government, intimated that Tell Mama would lose funding. Many people assumed that this would be the end of the matter and that justice had been done and dishonest grievance mongers had been punished. A glance at the accounts of Tell Mama’s parent organisation, Faith Matters, showed no large throughput of funds that would given anyone cause to believe otherwise. Tell Mama’s accounts were nowhere to be found, not on either the Companies House nor Charity Commission websites. It was assumed, wrongly by many people, that Tell Mama was existing on other forms of income, for example grants from various left-leaning charitable trusts and the reason for the lack of accounts was that TM had fallen into the category of smaller organisations that do not have to submit such detailed accounts as other larger organisations are required to do.
However, I’ve received Freedom of Information Act related documentation that shows that not only was Tell Mama not punished by the Government for lying about the numbers of ‘hate crimes’, but they are still being given enormous amounts of public money by the Department of Communities and Local Government. Also, the amount of this money and how it is being accounted for, raises alarm bells among those of us who have worked in the past as charity trustees. It appears that this year Tell Mama are still receiving £182,000 of taxpayers money, yet there are no easily accessible accounts, so that the public can see what this money is being spent on. As far as I can see Tell Mama has no registration as a company limited by guarantee, the standard legal vehicle that many community organisations have, nor is there any sign of a charity registration in Tell Mama’s name. This is highly odd. I’ve never known organisations that get grants of this substantial amount not making available easily accessible and publicly viewable financial accounts. Also an income of £182k would take them well over the threshold of £5,000 per annum that would allow them to be classified as a small organisation, which therefore didn’t need to make either a charity registration or register with Companies House. Faith Matters is taking advantage of small charity simplified accounts procedures but there is no sign of Tell Mama doing anything of the sort.
It is only because an individual put in a Freedom of Information Act request, because that person had become concerned about the activities of Tell Mama, that we are now aware that the organisation is still having substantial amounts of public money wasted on it. We are now also aware that the Department of Communities and Local Government may well have been mistaken at best and disingenuous at worst, when they informed the press and others that Tell Mama’s funding had been cut, due to Tell Mama’s dishonesty in claiming that internet comments about Islam were the equal of physical attacks. This is not good. Organisations in receipt of large amounts of public funding should put out publicly and easily accessible financial accounts. In third sector organisations that I’ve worked for, which have received UK taxpayers or EU funding, we’ve had to account for everything that came in for a particular grant aided project and account for everything that was spent. These accounts were then submitted to both the Charity Commission and to Companies House and were made publicly available. The results of the Freedom of Information Act request will raise suspicions among some that Tell Mama is being given taxpayers’ money partly ‘under the table’, simply because this information is difficult, if not impossible, to find elsewhere. It should not have taken this FOIA request to find out how much of our money Tell Mama has got out of us and to put this knowledge into the public eye; this information should be much easier to find and examine and be part of properly published accounts. This sort of behaviour, if not prima face evidence of collusion with Tell Mama and corrupt behaviour by DCLG civil servants, most certainly gives the impression of such behaviour. This is something to be deplored, it is not only necessary for honest Civil Servants to be incorruptible, but they must also take care to give the impression that they are incorruptible. I don’t think I can say honestly that the civil servants have given this impression in this case.
I’m horrified to see the amount of cash that is going to Tell Mama, cash that could be far more usefully spent elsewhere on services that everyone needs rather than questionable projects like Tell Mama. I’m seething with anger at the outcome of the FOIA request and I think that it’s time that we took this matter directly to our Members of Parliament. It may not help the immediate problem of so much public money being wasted on such a questionable group but it will at least inform MPs about this issue and hopefully allow people to identify which MPs are willing to ask awkward questions about this sort of spending and which are not. This is important because at a time of public sector cuts, sometimes very necessary cuts, money should not be thrown around in this way and certainly not thrown at Tell Mama. This organisation’s reputation should have made it persona non grata in government circles, but unfortunately this has not been the case.
Now it’s time to move onto the FOIA information itself and to examine it. Where possible I have uploaded the relevant documents but they are also available on the web link that I have included at the bottom of this piece. As is normal policy for this blog, the quoted documents will be put in italics whereas this bloggers’ comments will be in plain text. Where the original document itself had sections in italics I have for clarity rendered these sections in bold italics.
Here’s the final document from the Department of Communities and Local Government, detailing not only the funding that Tell Mama has got for the current year, but which also intimates that Tell Mama are on course for expansion and that there are no plans to stop taxpayer funding of this troublesome and indeed troubling group.
The FOIA final response to the enquirer was:
Freedom of Information Act 2000 – 1724184 additional query
Thank you for your request for information concerning ‘Can you please confirm how
much funding TELL MAMA has received for financial year 2015/2016? Can you also
please confirm if any funding cut decisions were taken for financial year 2015/2016?
Can you confirm what regional areas in the U.K. TELL MAMA are funded to work in?’
which we received on 10 February 2016 and processed under the Freedom of
Information Act 2000. This follows our response of 5 January and the associated response reference 1855969 which you queried in similar terms.
You additionally requested:
Can you please confirm exact dates and amounts paid to TELL MAMA
for financial years 2015/2016?
I can confirm that we hold this information, and that the payments made to date in 2015/16 to Tell MAMA are as follows:
25 June 2015 £45,482
2 October 2015 £45.500
18 December 2015 £45,500
Tell MAMA has been awarded a grant of £182,000 for 2015/16 and has so far received £90,982. There have been no discussions concerning reducing the agreed funding for this year. Tell MAMA’s outreach programme is designed to expand, widen and deepen their activities in major urban areas across England with significant local Muslim populations in order to raise community awareness of how to report anti-Muslim hate incidents.
If you are unhappy with this response, we will review it and report back to you. If you want us to do this, let us know by return email within two months of receiving this response. You can also ask by letter addressed to:
Department for Communities and Local Government
Knowledge and Information Access Team
1st Floor NW, Fry Building
2 Marsham Street
London, SW1P 4DF
These figures represent an awful lot of public money. Too much money. It makes those of us who have seen vulnerable relatives and friends have to virtually beg for access to public services that they’ve amply paid in for, but who have been refused on the grounds of ‘cuts’, livid that our money can be spent on such a worthless and thoroughly discredited organisation. The money that has been wasted on Tell Mama, despite legitimate concerns about this group’s activities, could have been far better spent elsewhere.
It must be assumed that although the figures disclosed via the FOIA request only relate to the years 2015/2016, similar levels of funds were given to Tell Mama for the years 2014/2015 and 2013/2014. It’s not acceptable in the eyes of many to hand over so much money to a group that has done so little to deserve it. Those who are wondering how Tell Mama has managed to splurge so much money on hiring staff and putting on events and schmoozing police officers and politicians, need wonder no more. The money for Tell Mama is coming from the pockets of you and me.
The thing that will make many people angry is that not only have they been caught out dissembling with regards ‘hate crime’ figures, but they appear to have been rewarded for doing so. I cannot but think, and others may agree with me, that there is something not quite right about all this. The concerns relate not only to the amount of money that Tell Mama is screwing out of the public purse, but also that they do not seem to be publicly accounting for what is after all our money.
If the finance issues and government funding issues were not serious enough, we now need to turn out attention to the question as to whether or not Tell Mama is value for money? There are a number of organisations that get public funding in the form of grants or other types of resources and some of these provide useful services but there are others which are primarily campaigning vehicles and maybe should not be prioritised for public funding in the way that they currently are. In my opinion Tell Mama comes into the category of a campaigning group and therefore in such straitened times with regards to public funding, they should not be funded and especially not funded to the tune of £182k.
Now to turn to the detail of the subject of the question of ‘Is Tell Mama value for money? We need to realise that this organisation has been the subject of much criticism from bog standard British citizens about Tell Mama’s probity. It has also aroused questions about the accuracy and honesty of the data that they use to back up their claims that Britain is a cesspit of ‘anti-Muslim hatred’. Their much publicised reports on the situation regarding anti-Muslim hatred in the UK are often constructed in large part from trawling around the internet for people speaking critically about Islam, the results of ‘fishing expeditions’ where they search out people who’ve been ‘offended’ and also data supplied or validated by tame and possibly politically biased academic departments, such as those at Teeside University’s Centre for Fascist, Anti-Fascist and Post-Fascist Studies. This academic department has produced weighty reports which have been, in large part, produced by data supplied by Tell Mama. Tell Mama then complete the circle by using these academic studies of dubious validity in turn, to bolster their own claims of a massive wave of ‘hate crimes’ against Muslims. Tell Mama and some of their supporters and surrogates are also not immune to smearing opponents, usually by screaming out that a particular person or organisation is ‘far right’. In the eyes of Tell Mama, anyone and everyone who criticises Islam on the internet is classified as ‘far right’, even those whose political views are 180 degrees away from the Jackboot-lickers of the real Neo-Nazi far right.
But back to the issue of value for money. If an organisation is in receipt of public funds, then we the public should expect that the organisation who is being funded spend that money wisely and that any data or information that the funded organisation publishes is honest and beyond reproach. Unfortunately a document that has come into my possession from the True Vision organisation, an entity that is funded both by the Police and by the Department of Communities and Local Government, which calls into question just how accurate Tell Mama’s information really is. Tell Mama have an ‘information sharing agreement’ with True Vision and the National Police Chief’s Council and that, bearing in mind the history of Tell Mama, should give many people a cause for concern.
The document, a spreadsheet of ‘hate crime’ reports made to police either directly or via True Vision over a number of years, shows a distinct anomaly. This anomaly is that when groups like Tell Mama were acting as conduits for internet related ‘hate crime’ reports, to the True Vision team, the numbers did indeed look quite worryingly large and may have given the impression to some, that Britain has a problem with Muslims being beaten up in the street left, right and centre. However, when True Vision’s policy changed and these allegations had to be reported directly to police forces, the number of internet related hate crime reports dropped dramatically. In fact they dropped from 547 in 2014/2015 to a mere 8 in 2015/2016. This is such a dramatic drop that we need to ask why this has occurred? It may be that this was a legitimate reassessment of what sort of internet related ‘hate crime’ should be included. On the other hand, it could be that dodgy groups such as Tell Mama were feeding informational garbage into the system that inflated the amount of alleged ‘hate crime’ and that the change in procedure has stopped this from happening. Either way, it’s such a massive change in figures that it deserves looking at and asking the question ‘why the massive drop in a mere one year period’? If nothing else the drop is certainly suspicious and it is something that I hope that our elected representatives and others will be able to examine further.
I find that looking at the work of Tell Mama and the behaviour of their staff and supporters doesn’t give me confidence that they are giving value for money to the taxpayer. Tell Mama are using taxpayer cash to promote their own particular interpretation and definition of ‘hate crimes’ and they are promoting this interpretation to police officers, government departments, schools, the prosecuting authorities and to those in the charity and voluntary sector. Tell Mama are using more public cash than most Britons earn in a year to push their particular views, which is something that many people will find unacceptable in the current fiscal climate. Even worse than the waste of money that could be spent elsewhere is the fact that Tell Mama are using this money to gain unwarranted access and influence over often vital sectors of the public sphere, such as policing and prosecution of criminal offences. The influence that Tell Mama have managed to gain is far in excess of that which the ordinary citizen or even some businesses could get. That is something that should concern every Briton who cares about the trustworthiness and propriety of Britain’s national institutions.
Britons of all races and of all peaceful faiths need and deserve policing, prosecution and governmental entities that they can have some degree of trust in. Sadly the access that these entities have given the Tell Mama organisation, despite justifiable and provable criticisms of them, go a very long way to wearing away the citizen’s trust in those parts of government and policing that we should be able to trust. The presence of Islamic groups at the centre of governmental and policing activities is a matter of concern but when these groups are, like Tell Mama, ones which ‘look fair but feel foul’ once they are examined more closely, then that should give the citizen even more to be concerned about.
The British people and British businesses pay a lot of money in taxation to support the state and pay for essential services and for the work of Government departments. For that money we should be able to expect both value for money and probity from those whom we fund. The amount of money that Tell Mama get and the undue influence that they’ve been given is in my view a fiscal, ethical and political scandal of monstrous proportions. This scandal deserves to be much more widely known about than it currently is and definitely needs to be brought to an end.
Teeside University’s Centre for Fascist, Anti-Fascist and Post-Fascist Studies
True Vision website
Tell Mama information sharing agreement with True Vision and NPCC
True Vision spreadsheet on ‘hate crime’ figures
Tell Mama exploit catastrophically mentally ill transsexual in order to gain sympathy with the Crown Prosecution Service
Tell Mama continue to promote this story as true even though the alleged victim was fined for wasting police time by lying about being attacked
Tell Mama in league with the press censors of Hacked Off
Faith Matters website
Tell Mama website
Tell Mama’s Fiyaz Mughal dragging man through the courts for what is little more than a joke
Tell Mama makes false claim about massive rise in Islamophobia
DCLG told reporter that Tell Mama would lose funding, unfortunately the DCLG may have been being ‘economical with the truth’
‘What do they know’ data on Tell Mama’s funding
Faith Matters latest financial accounts
Freedom of Information Act enquiry into the funding of Tell Mama
Endpiece I’d like to thank the very great number of curious, intelligent and well informed people who have assisted me in the writing of this piece. By necessity and for understandable security reasons these people must remain nameless but I would like to thank them all the same. You who’ve helped me with this bit of work know who you are and at the earliest opportunity I shall be buying you a pint or two.