90 people attend meeting hosted by the Hizb ut-Tahrir political party in Queens Park
A government-funded group has criticised police and council bosses for failing to stop a religious organisation holding a public meeting with the aim of spreading a "message of hatred and intolerance".
On Tuesday evening the Hizb ut-Tahrir political party hosted a meeting at Queens Park Community Centre about a perceived bias by Western governments against Muslims.
The meeting was entitled 'The Campaign To Destroy Islam'.
Two speakers gave lectures to an audience of around 90 people.
One spoke about the abolition of the Muslim caliphate, or political leadership, in 1924. The other talked about Islamic values, and called for Muslims to reject "Western" concepts such as democracy and homosexuality.
According to Hizb ut-Tahrir's website, the group wants to unite all Muslim nations in a unitary Islamic state, headed by an elected caliph. This would be established using political methods.
The website adds: "In the West, Hizb ut-Tahrir works to cultivate a Muslim community that lives by Islam in thought and deed, whereby adhering to the rules of Islam and preserving a strong Islamic identity.
"The party does not work in the West to change the system of government, but works to project a positive image of Islam to Western society and engages in dialogue with Western thinkers, policy makers and academics."
But the Quilliam Foundation, a Government-funded thinktank, has described the group as "extremists" and, after finding out about the meeting, contacted the Town Hall, Beds Police and the community centre in a bid to have the meeting cancelled.
Spokesman James Brandon said: "Although nothing illegal was said in the meeting, this event has clearly done very little for community cohesion in Bedford.
"It is a scandal that a group that openly detests everything about liberal, democratic society should be allowed to use taxpayer-funded property to spread its message of hatred and intolerance."
He added: "We don't want the UK to become a communist country where everything has to be approved by the council before it happens.
"But people have to be aware of the dangers of events like this happening, and they shouldn't wait or expect guidance from other people, or expect them to step in and solve problems for them."
The community centre is owned by Bedford Borough Council but is run by an indepedent committee.
A spokesman for the council said: "We have had no involvement in this meeting taking place.
"However, we work with all local communities to create a cleaner, greener, safer and more inclusive borough."
A Beds Police spokesman said: "This is a legal political group which has been meeting on a regular basis for some time – we are in regular contact with them and officers have previously attended their meetings.
"It is not part of the police role to have view on the political opinions of the public and the police do not have the power to ban public meetings."
Hizb ut-Tahrir spokesman Taji Mustaffa said: "Who we are, and the work we do in the local community, is well-known. We call for Muslims to engage in debate and we address issues.
"Islam is under the spotlight and the government appears to be pursuing policies of concern to the Muslim community. People come to our meetings, they give their views, and it is part of a vibrant discussion we have in our community. I think that is something everyone would welcome."
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