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Last Updated: Thursday, 1 December 2005, 08:27 GMT
Worship closure plan criticised
Police fear the measures may be seen as an attack on Islam
Top police officers have criticised plans to allow the shutting down of places of worship such as mosques suspected of inciting extremism.

In their response to proposals to give courts the power to close such premises, police warned there were better ways to deal with the problem.

Assistant Chief Constable Rob Beckley of the Association of Chief Police Officers said it was a "blunt tool".

"This proposal might be seen as an attack on religion," he said.

A consultation period on the plans, first mooted by Prime Minister Tony Blair in August, ended three weeks ago.

In response ACC Beckley, who is responsible for Acpo's community relations, said the plan could be seen as specifically targeting Islam.

"Being radical, being extreme in itself is not an offence," he said.

Identify perpetrators

He said that if police had their suspicions about a particular mosque they would want to identify those responsible rather than close it down.

Mr Beckley told BBC Radio 4's Today programme: "We would want to find out what was happening.

"We would use different techniques to do that, policing techniques that are pretty tried and tested, because what we want to do is identify those who might be perpetrating terrorism and prevent them.

Being radical, being extreme in itself is not an offence
Assistant Chief Constable Rob Beckley
"We would not just want to close the place."

Under the plans, police could seek a court order for the temporary closure of a place of worship if extremist behaviour or terrorist activity was believed to be taking place.

The government is also considering banning the radical Muslim group Hizb-ut-Tahrir.

ACC Beckley told Today: "They proclaim themselves to be against violence - what we need to do is test that but not just automatically ban them because there are some radicals within their organisation.

"There are individuals who we might be wanting to take action against or to look at very closely."

He added: "Extremism and radicalism, where it is not an offence - we don't want to drive that underground."

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