Police to toughen approach to Islamic extremists

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The Independent Online

Scotland Yard are to clamp down on Islamist extremists demonstrating in London following a series of complaints that radicals are being allowed to break the law, and are misrepresenting the views of the Muslim community.

The police are to use tactics deployed against crime bosses and suspected terrorists to target individuals who have called for the execution of critics of Islam and have been accused of stirring up racial hatred.

A team of specialist lawyers is also to be created to help the police prosecute radicals, under a proposal by the country's most senior Muslim police chief.

The new zero-tolerance approach follows a series of demonstrations in which Islamic extremists were accused of inciting racial hatred. Last month a well-known Islamist radical reportedly said during a protest outside Westminster Cathedral that Pope Benedict XVI should face "capital punishment" for insulting Islam.

The tough stance is likely to be criticised by some as being heavy-handed and an attempt to stifle free speech. But Assistant Commissioner Tarique Ghaffur, Britain's most senior Asian officer, who is in charge of policing demonstrations in London, said: "I'm getting frustrated that these people are using public demonstrations to express their extremist views - and that causes a huge amount of concern among Muslims and other communities.

"I am entirely against the kind of rhetoric these people put out. Just as the BNP [the far right British National Party] is not representative of the white British public, neither are these views representative of the British Muslim community, who want to be law-abiding citizens.

"The mainstream Muslim community's view is that these people are doing this for their own ends - and because of the platform the media is giving these individuals, the level of hatred is increasing."

He said he would be approaching the Director of Public Prosecutions to discuss "whether we can develop a cadre of specialist Crown Prosecution Service lawyers who can understand the complexity of what we are doing."