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PARIS - Since the deadly terror bombings in London, Italian authorities have deported eight extremist Muslim prayer leaders for not holding the proper residency papers. France has expelled two imams and plans to ship home another eight. And Britain has put many clerics under close watch as the country re-examines its power to deport them.
Shaken by new terrorism on European soil, officials have stepped up a policy of deporting Islamic clerics accused of whipping up hatred and violence in vulnerable, disenfranchised pockets of the continent's mostly moderate Muslim community.
Several European countries enacted expulsion policies after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks on the United States, saying legislation was needed to ensure public order and security.
After four near-simultaneous blasts on July 7 in London killed 56 people — including four suicide-bombers — and injured hundreds, application of those laws has become more robust.
Some imams were ousted for immigration paper violations, others for suspected ties to terror groups or for spouting calls for holy war, according to authorities. In one French case, an imam who was ordered to quit the country in 1999 was belatedly sent packing after he turned up in the southeastern city of Lyon.
Moderate Islamic leaders, concerned about a possible backlash against Muslims in Europe, vow to monitor new expulsions to prevent abuses of civil liberties.
"The bombings in London very much shocked public opinion in Europe," said Paris mosque director Dalil Boubakeur, a moderate who also heads the French Council of the Muslim Faith. "It's completely normal for a government to be strong and apply the law. What we are asking is that it is simply just."
Most Muslims oppose "self-proclaimed imams" who discuss politics, he said in a telephone interview with The Associated Press. He called the expulsions extreme and said they could aggravate the situation and lead to more "finger-pointing" and anger aimed at Muslims.
"We have already seen desecrations (of religious sites) and insults," he said.
Authorities are pressing ahead anyway.