The Islamic Center of England, affiliated with the office of Iran’s Supreme Leader, has been shuttered "until further notice".
A banner has been installed on the closed door of the center that reads, “After receiving the concerns of the community and for their safety, we are saddened to inform you that all upcoming programs, including prayers, have been suspended until further notice.” The message was later removed.
The center was closed on Wednesday following an investigation by the UK Charity Commission into how it was run, following weeks of efforts by the charity watchdog to take control. The Telegraph cited unnamed sources as saying that "the Iranian regime decided to pull the plug on the operation rather than lose control to an interim manager appointed by the Charity Commission.”
According to the Charity Commission, the building was closed down, but the center’s charity will be run by the interim manager -- a senior partner at an international law firm identified as Emma Moody – who has been appointed “due to the trustees’ failure to comply with their legal duties and responsibilities and their failure to protect the charity’s assets”.
The banner on the closed gate of the Islamic Center of England in London
The inquiry into the charity was opened in November last year after the watchdog issued an official warning over “serious governance concerns” as well as the content of its website and the events it organizes.
Founded in 1995 and opened officially in 1998, the Islamic Center of England Ltd (ICEL) is a religious and cultural institute run by Ali Khamenei’s representative in the UK, Seyyed Hashem Mousavi, and funded by the Islamic Republic. The center, which hosted a vigil for Qassem Soleimani, head of IRGC’s extraterritorial Quds force who was killed in a US drone strike in 2020, has been called the cultural arm of the regime.
Senior UK officials have been calling for the closure of the center for years, with MP Alicia Kearns, the chair of the foreign affairs select committee, describing it as the "London office" of the Iranian regime. Theresa Villiers, a member of the intelligence and security select committee, called the charity "the voice" of Khamenei in the UK.
As calls continue to shut down the center, Security Minister Tom Tugendhat last week described it as a "vile threat" against the country.Tugendhat told The Times that the government was “pulling together” to deal with “this vile threat that’s taken over a country and is now threatening ours.”
During a parliamentary debate last week, several UK lawmakers called for the Islamic Republic’s outpost to be closed.
Tugendhat stated that MPs are “absolutely right” to be worried about such “cultural centers” in Britain, adding: “Sadly, the Islamic Centre for England is not alone and the work of the IRGC is not limited to those Iranian proxy organizations.”
Previously, a group of Iranians had prepared an online petition for the closure of the Islamic Center of England, which was signed by tens of thousands of people.
In recent months while global rallies against the Islamic Republic are growing, Iranians have demonstrated many times in London demanding the closure of the center.