INTERNATIONAL

Police against move to shut down mosques

Hasan Suroor

LONDON: The British Government's controversial move to shut down mosques, suspected of harbouring terrorists, has been criticised by senior police officers who have warned that it could further alienate the Muslim community at a time when they need its full support to fight Islamist extremism.

Muslim leaders have already opposed the measure, proposed in the new anti-terror bill, saying closing down mosques would only play into the hands of those who exploit religious sentiments by portraying the Government as "anti-Muslim.'

Now it has emerged that even police have reservations. A senior member of the Association of Chief Police Officers said the proposal would send the "wrong message'' and make it more difficult for the police to engage with the Muslim community.

"We are concerned that a measure introduced to close a building related to a particular religion sends the wrong message to those communities and potentially prevents police from proper engagement and gaining vital intelligence. If we suspect there is extremism that is verging on promotion of terrorism in a mosque we wouldn't just want to close that mosque. We would want to find out what was happening,'' Rob Beckley, an assistant chief constable and the association's spokesman on communities and terrorism, told The Guardian.

Mr. Beckley also voiced concern over the move to ban Hiz-ut-Tahrir, which campaigns for establishment of Islamic rule in Britain but is opposed to violence.