London, Asharq Al-Awsat—Following HSBC’s controversial decision to unilaterally close bank accounts belonging to a number of Muslim organizations based in the UK, those organizations have hit back, branding the move “shocking” and “Islamaphobic.”
Last week, HSBC sent out a number of near-identical letters to Muslim organizations in the UK giving them two months to close their bank accounts, saying their services fell outside of the bank’s “risk appetite.” The Ummah Welfare Trust, Cordoba Foundation think tank and Finsbury Park Mosque were among them.
Anas Altikriti, the founder and CEO of the Cordoba Foundation, which specializes in promoting cultural dialogue, said he was “shocked” by the decision and saddened by HSBC’s continuing silence over the issue, adding that not only had the Cordoba Foundation’s bank accounts been targeted, but also accounts belonging to his family.
“I have had an account with HSBC for more than 29 years, since I was a university student. We also opened an account for the Cordoba Foundation, and my wife and children also had accounts with the bank,” he told Asharq Al-Awsat.
Altikriti, who is the grandson of a former Iraqi Muslim Brotherhood General Guide and known to have close ties to the organization, criticized HSBC targeting his family’s bank accounts. “My family has been ideal customers for the bank,” Altikriti said, describing the decision to close the accounts as “political.”
“I’m angry because of the silence and the tone of the letter that we received. It is difficult to accept this when I consider myself a citizen who respects the law, is trying to have a positive impact on conflicts around the world and seeking to promote peace and dialogue,” he said.
Finsbury Park Mosque received a near-identical letter to the one received by the Cordoba Foundation. The North London mosque’s name was synonymous with radical cleric Abu Hamza—currently on trial in the US on terrorism charges—during the 1990s and early 2000s, but has been under new management since 2005.
Finsbury Park Mosque chairman Mohamed Kozbar told Asharq Al-Awsat that the mosque has had an account with HSBC for close to six years and that the mosque has never owed the bank any money.
“It is shocking and unbelievable for the bank to send out a letter such as this without any explanation. We do not know why they have taken this decision, but we will not be silent. This is an outrage.”
He added: “We are doing excellent work to bring different communities together. We have worked hard to do so since we took over the mosque from Abu Hamza. We changed the atmosphere in the mosque from one of confrontation to an atmosphere of openness and tolerance based on a moderate interpretation of Islam,” blaming the state of “Islamophobia” in British society for the bank’s decision.