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Britain drops plans to close 'extremist' mosques

Britain announced on Thursday that it had dropped plans to close mosques deemed to be breeding grounds for extremism after opposition from police and the Muslim community.
/ Source: Reuters

Britain announced on Thursday that it had dropped plans to close mosques deemed to be breeding grounds for extremism after opposition from police and the Muslim community.

The controversial measure was proposed in the aftermath of suicide bomb attacks on London in July when four British Islamists killed themselves and 52 others on underground trains and a bus.

Two weeks later an identical plot was botched when the bombs failed to detonate.

After consultation, the Home Office said it had now decided to ditch the proposal to close mosques “used as a center for fomenting extremism.”

It said both Muslim leaders and senior police officers believed strengthening relations between police and the community would be more effective.

“I will not seek to legislate on this issue at the present time, although we will keep the matter under review,” Home Secretary Charles Clarke said in a written statement.

Fear of alienation
The proposal was part of a 12-point plan of measures to combat terrorism put forward by Prime Minister Tony Blair in August.

Other plans included powers to expel foreign nationals who incite terrorism, to create an offence of glorifying terrorism and blacklisting extremist clerics, Web sites and bookshops.

The proposed laws have been severely criticized by opponents including many in Blair’s own Labor Party who said they could radicalize the Muslim community and erode civil rights while doing nothing to make the country safer.

In November, Blair suffered his first major parliamentary defeat in more than eight years over plans to allow police to hold terror suspects for up to 90 days.

The Muslim Council of Britain, Britain’s largest Islamist organization, said it had been deeply disturbed that the government was associating “the evil of violence” with their places of worship.

“We therefore feel that mosques are being misidentified and stereotyped as incubators of violent extremism, while the social reality is that they serve as centers of moderation,” the Muslim Council of Britain said in its formal response.

“The bombers were indoctrinated by a sub-culture outside the mosque.”