Ministers yesterday dropped plans proposed by Tony Blair as part of his 12-point anti-terror plan in the wake of the July bombings to close mosques that are used to foment extremism after criticism from the police and religious leaders. The home secretary, Charles Clarke, proposed the police should have the power to secure a court order requiring trustees of a mosque or other place of worship to stop the activities of extremists or face a temporary closure.
Sir Iqbal Sacranie, secretary general of the Muslim Council of Britain, said that mosques were being “misidentified and stereotyped as incubators of violent extremism, while the social reality is that they serve as centres of moderation”. He said the bombers had been indoctrinated in a sub-culture outside the mosque and the notion of “influential back-door mosques” was a figment of the imagination. He noted that the Finsbury Park case was resolved by existing laws.
His concerns were shared by the government’s Muslim working parties which told ministers that the proposal was arbitrary and open to misuse with whole congregations being penalised by the actions of a few fanatics.
In the face of such a critical reaction, Mr Clarke said: “I will not seek to legislate on this issue at the present time, although we will keep the matter under review.”