Bobbies will be taught sharia law and the Koran in 'secret' plan to counter terror at local level
By JAMES SLACK
Police will be trained on the importance of sharia law and the Koran to Muslim communities, under new plans to fight extremism.
The lessons in Islamic faith and culture will become part of the formal training of constables working in towns and cities across the country.
Chief constables say that, by understanding the community they are policing, officers will build better relationships.
These could prove crucial in rooting out extremism and preventing a terrorist attack, according to the Association of Chief Police Officers.
But critics have described the plan as "politically correct thinking".
Philip Davies, Conservative MP for Shipley, said: "Police officers are not there to implement sharia law. They are there to implement British law.
"This idea is misguided. We will only get community cohesion when everybody signs up to being British and following British law."
Shadow Home Secretary, David Davis, said: "Of course it is sensible for the police to have an understanding of the Koran and sharia law as long as we do not allow the situation to slip so that sharia law is regarded on an equal basis with British law. British law is and always must be pre-eminent."
Under the Acpo plans, police will not have to learn the "depth and complexity" of sharia law, but would be expected to understand Islamic culture - which includes sharia law and the Koran.
It is part of a wide-ranging strategy to prevent extremist ideas gaining hold in primary schools, colleges, the internet and prisons.
Other initiatives in the 40-page strategy include guidance to parents on how to stop children searching for extremist websites, and intervening where convicted terrorists are suspected of spreading hate in prison.
It includes a stark assessment about how far police have to go in building trust with Muslim communities.
The so-called Prevent strategy says: "Research last year revealed that the police service would be very low on the list of agencies that the Muslim community would turn to if they had concerns about a member of their community who embraced violent extremism.
"The police service has a long way to go in building a relationship of trust around these issues."
The Chief Constable in charge of the strategy, West Yorkshire's Norman Bettison, said: "We work closely with communities and the majority of police training at the moment in this area is done in partnership with Muslim organisations.
"We are building on this basis of training and emphasising that a basic principle of policing is that officers work with and should understand the communities they are policing.
"The Acpo Prevent strategy recognises this in the context of non-Muslim officers working with Muslim communities.
"These issues can be complex and include nationality, community and religious issues, all of which are interwoven.
"That is what we are trying to get across to officers in our training. The depth and complexity of sharia law is not part of this training.
"The strategy remains in draft form at present and I expect it to be formally adopted by chief officer colleagues after further feedback from partners and communities."
1) Bobbies will be taught sharia law and the Koran in 'secret' plan to counter terror at local level