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Written by Student Rights on 30 July 2014 at 1pm

Gaza conflict sees students fund charity accused of extreme links (Update: Charity claims over £10,000 raised)

UPDATE: Following Student Rights covering this issue UWT has released a certificate to the 'UK ISOC Annual Ramadhan Campaign' which claims that £10,098.79 has been raised by students for the charity, with £7,337.11 going to projects in Gaza.

Meanwhile, on 18th August the Islamic Society at the University of Westminster shared a post calling for further donations to the group, calling for students to work towards raising a further £10,000 to support "the suffering Muslims".

Since the beginning of July the escalating violence in Gaza has seen a surge in activism, with many student societies raising money for charities working with Palestinians affected by the fighting.

While this should be commended, at several universities money is being raised for Ummah Welfare Trust (UWT), a charity which recently had its bank accounts closed by HSBC and has been accused of funding extremist groups.

UWT has supported projects implemented by the Al-Salah Islamic Association - designated as a Hamas fundraising operation in 2007 by the US Treasury, which described it as "one of the largest and best-funded Hamas charitable organizations in the Palestinian territories".

Al-Salah had its assets frozen by the Palestinian Authority in 2003 over connections to Hamas and was confirmed as Hamas-linked by the militant group itself in 2002.

The charity is also alleged to have given money to Interpaldesignated by the US Treasury in 2003 as one of several organisations that "provide support to Hamas and form part of its funding network in Europe".

A 2009 Charity Commission investigation concluded that it “...could not verify the material suggesting that certain local partners funded by [Interpal] may be promoting terrorist ideology or activities”.

However, it ordered the charity to disassociate from the designated Hamas fundraising organisation Union of Good (UoG) after it was found that the UoG General Secretary doubled as Interpal's Managing Trustee.

In addition, UWT has hosted material on its website which called the British government “an enemy to Islam and the Muslims” and encouraged readers to “consider the Police and Intelligence as filthy human beings”.

Despite these concerns students at Nottingham TrentQueen Mary, and London Metropolitan Universities had all shared fundraising appeals for the charity by 10th July.

Since then, similar appeals have appeared on the Facebook pages of student societies at the University of BradfordEast LondonHertfordshireKingston, as well as at University College London.

While students should not be criticised for charitable activity they do have a responsibility to ensure their money does not fund groups with any links to violent extremism - and as such they must be aware of any concerns surrounding charities they choose to support.