WHEN an imam raised concerns over financial irregularities at the Edinburgh Central Mosque he was sacked.
But an employment tribunal ruled that Yahya Barry’s concerns amounted to “protected disclosures” – the legal definition of whistle-blowing.
Barry, 35, had been worried by thousands of pounds of payments being made from the mosque petty cash reserve, and reported the matter to the charity regulator, OSCR.
Judge Murdo Macleod, who heard Mr Barry’s case, said the mosque had not been ready to accept criticism from the imam.
In a formal ruling, Macleod said:
They reacted in an an extraordinarily defensive way, in our judgment, instead of looking at the facts. This defensiveness was, in our judgment, redolent of an employer that was not prepared to accept criticism and [Mr Barry’s] persistence in raising matters both with the management and with OSCR led directly to the process which led to his dismissal.
Barry was appointed to his £30,000-a-year role in December 2015 and dismissed in September 2017.
The hearing heard he had clashed with the mosque’s director, Dr Naji Al Arfaj, above, who came to the post in January 2017.
Barry had been accused of calling Dr Naji a liar over claims the director made about mosque finances.
While Barry did admit to once “loosing his cool”, Macleod judged that the mosque was wrong to assert a pattern of hostile behaviour.
Instead, Macleod concluded one of the reasons Barry was that he had raised concerns over petty cash.
On his whistle-blowing form Barry claimed payments totalling around £8,000 had been paid out of petty cash. He cited payments made without invoices.
During the hearing, Ahmed Werfali, now a lecturer in accounts and finance at Dundee University, told the tribunal he quit in March 2017 due to issues with Dr Naji Al Arfaj, including the irregular use of petty cash.
Werfali, who described the environment at the mosque as “toxic”, claimed large cash sums were being paid out to tradesmen without any quotations being sought for the work or invoices being issued.
The accountant said he was also concerned by the way the mosque handled cash from its car park.
Macleod said a new hearing would be arranged to decide how Barry could be compensated for his unfair dismissal. Since leaving the mosque Barry has set up his own madrassah (Muslim school) and is studying for a PhD at Edinburgh University, where he is an honorary chaplain.