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October 27, 2005
Mosque closures will be 'collective punishment'
The British Government is being challenged by The Muslim News on why it is trying to single out places of worship in its campaign to root out extremism following July's bombings in London.
"For Muslims, mosques are at the heart of communities, doing essential and basic charitable work and as such, any restrictive measures can only be seen as another kind of collective punishment," the monthly says in its latest editorial. "Provoking an issue with mosques is totally unwarranted and would send out further signals that the war against terrorism is against Islam," it warned.
Home Secretary, Charles Clarke, revealed by way of a separate consultation paper earlier this month that he was considering giving the police controversial powers to close mosques. His plans include police being able not only to issue orders to prevent mosques from allegedly being used to foment extremism but also to have the power for their closure regardless of whether a person is successfully prosecuted for any failure to comply.
"Needless to say such proposals are in blatant defiance of any evidence as well as the advice of religious leaders who were selected by the Government for consultation on these very issues. They said very clearly that there was no evidence that mosques were responsible for radicalising young Muslims or that mosques were preaching hatred," The Muslim News said. It warned that police controls would raise significant issues about the freedom of worship, which is enshrined in the UN Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and undermine the country's high regard for religious tolerance.
The paper questioned whether the consultation would be "another public relations exercise" by the way the proposals were presented "under the masquerading heading of 'Preventing Extremism Together - Places of Worship'." During its two terms, it said that Labour has already legislated on many more anti-terrorism measures than any previous Government, most of which have been "excessive, abused and directed at the Muslim community." But with the Home Secretary not due to report on his consultations until November, it expressed hope that "it could be the first sign of many that the Government is finally prepared to listen and actually heed the advice given."
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