SCOTLAND’s biggest mosque has been criticised by charity watchdogs in a damning report over the way the centre has been run by its previous orthodox leaders.

Trustees who wielded power at Glasgow Central Mosque - the country’s largest place of worship - breached their legal duties over many years, according to the Scottish Charity Regulator (OSCR).

The watchdogs says trustees were making decisions about the running of the charity where they had no power to do so.

The probe follows concerns from Scottish-born reformers that money from the mosque was going to a group which has been accused of promoting Islamic extremism.

Glasgow City Mosque

HeraldScotland: Glasgow Central Mosque

The loan of £50,000 to the European HQ of the conservative group Tablighi Jamaat in Dewsbury in 2011 only came to light after the younger generation of liberal Mosque members, who are co-operating with OSCR, effectively took control of the Mosque last year.

In its report, investigators at OSCR, warned of “illegal acts” by the orthodox one-time leaders at the Clydeside complex.

The watchdog investigation focuses on the unusual governance arrangements at the mosque, which has two sets of trustees, one for the religious institution itself, a charity, and another for the multi-million-pound riverside complex opened 30 years ago as a non-charitable trust.

Analysis: The new generation running Glasgow Central Mosque

For years the so-called “property trustees” ruled, appointing “charity trustees” as committees to run the mosque but effectively continuing to wield control over the institution and its income themselves.

OSCR, in its preliminary findings, found against this practice.

The watchdog, in formal correspondence of May 2015 with the mosque seen by The Herald, said: “The property trustees have previously been involved in making decisions about the running of the charity where they have no power to do so.

“This has been allowed to happen by previous committees and is in breach of the legal duties of the charity trustees.

“The behaviours and conduct of charity trustees past and present were not of the standard we would expect of charity trustees in fulfilling their legal duty to act in the interests of the charity.”

Glasgow Central Mosque - or Jamait Ittihad Ul Muslimin to give it its formal name - has been managed by Nabeel Shaikh since 2014, despite an attempt by the property trustees to oust him.

The 39-year-old general secretary is eager to see reforms - including making the mosque more open to women and non-Pakistanis - and is understood to be working very closely with OSCR.

Mr Shaikh said: “For many years Glasgow Central Mosque has tried to move from its founding fathers’ homeland of Pakistan to Glasgow.

“The founding fathers undertook an amazing journey to establish the building.

“However, the management of the mosque has never reflected the culturally diverse and changing congregation.

“A number of property trustees effectively took control of the mosque and they stopped events and activities that would have represented the Scottish Muslim community.”

Core to the investigation is the way that until recently the property trustees controlled much of the roughly £500,000 a year in donations raised by the mosque.

Solicitors for the new charity trustees, led by Mr Shaikh, in October 2015 wrote to OSCR outlining what they regard as “inappropriate behaviour”.

This included an allegation that the property trustees had extended a loan of £50,000 “to an external organisation without appropriate authority to do so and failing to put in place the necessary paperwork”.

Herald View: Bad rhetoric that threatens a good idea

Accounts seen by The Herald show that this loan was made to the Dewsbury Mosque in Yorkshire, European headquarters of an ultra-orthodox group called Tablighi Jamaat.

This organisation, which promotes a conservative vision of Islam, has been accused of being a recruiting ground for extremists by US Homeland Security.

The group’s leaders, however, have always stressed that they reject violence.

Tablighi Jamaat’s Scottish leader is a respected paediatrician called Hafiz Sadiq who is also spokesman for the property trustees of Glasgow Central Mosque.

Dr Sadiq did not respond to requests for comment. A decade ago he defended Tablighi Jamaat in a newspaper interview, saying anyone could join but that extremists would not find a warm welcome.

He said: “We have no platform for ridiculous or stupid ideas about harming other people in the name of Islam.”

Video by Mark Gibson