Victoria's peak Muslim body lashes out at 'hysterical' objections to mosques
January 30, 201312:00AM
VICTORIA'S peak Muslim body has lashed out at "hysterical" objections whenever plans for mosques go before local councils.
Islamic Council of Victoria board member Nazeem Hussain said there was an underlying level of Islamophobia in society and Muslims had to do more to educate people about their religion and mosque proposals.
"People are clearly fearful of Muslims and Islam, and it's easy to create that fear and hysteria in some ways," Mr Hussain said.
Several applications are in the spotlight, including a bid by an Afghan community group to build a mosque and community centre in Doveton, on the city's south-east fringe.
The mosque, which would be built next to the future headquarters of evangelical church Catch the Fire Ministries, has been hotly debated by residents and City of Casey councillors.
In Clayton, a Uniting Church congregation has apologised to Islamic groups for suggesting to Monash Council a new mosque could become a training ground for fanatics.
Last year, Whittlesea councillors rejected plans for an Islamic school in Mernda despite council planning officers recommending it.
Mr Hussain said Islamic community applications often were met with hysteria not faced by proposals by other religious groups.
"It speaks to an underlying level of Islamophobia in society and a fear of Muslims moving into neighbourhoods and disrupting locals," he said.
Mr Hussain accused Catch the Fire Ministries pastor Danny Nalliah of creating community divisions by spreading false information about Muslims and the Koran in his opposition to the Doveton mosque.
But Mr Nalliah, who had a long-running legal battle with the Islamic Council over a racial vilification matter, said he had no issue with individual Muslims but objected to violent passages in the Koran.
"I am concerned ... because of what is going to be taught in the mosque based on what is in the Koran," he said.
State Multicultural Affairs and Citizenship Minister Nick Kotsiras said people had the right to object to building proposals on planning grounds.
"To base it on religious grounds is unfair," Mr Kotsiras said.
Last night, Monash Council was due to vote on a plan to build a Monash University-linked mosque in a Clayton residential area.
Monash Uniting Church apologises to Islamic groups over mosque claim
January 29, 201312:33PM
A CHURCH has apologised to Islamic groups for suggesting that an outer-suburban mosque could become a training ground for religious fanatics.
Monash Uniting Church Congregation chairman Richard Farrell had written to Monash Council objecting to plans by an Islamic association to upgrade a house used for prayers to a mosque.
Mr Farrell, who said he was writing on behalf of his church, said the expansion would disturb residents with the call to prayer, and "in effect the mosque is a training ground for religious moderates at one end of the scale and religious fanatics at the other end''.
The site, in Beddoe Ave, Clayton, is owned by Monash University and used by the Islamic Association of Monash Mosque, which says the new building will accommodate a maximum of 185 people.
But the Monash church has apologised after the Uniting Church of Australia Victorian Synod intervened in the controversy.
Synod general secretary the Rev Dr Mark Lawrence said Mr Farrell's claim that the mosque could become a training ground for religious fanatics was outrageous and unacceptable.
"It goes against the Uniting Church's strong desire to interact with all faiths in a respectful manner,'' he said.
"Multicultural relations often entail very complex histories and interpretations, and there are those in Monash Uniting Church who have experienced oppression and persecution in their countries of birth.
"While these people have understandably brought their concerns to Australia, this does not justify the position taken by the chairperson's statement.''
A synod spokeswoman said the Monash church had withdrawn its objection to the mosque and sent written apologies to the university's Islamic association and to the Islamic Council of Victoria.
"I don't think they really thought through what they were saying,'' she said.
A planning report before Monash Council has recommended approving the proposal, with councillors due to vote on the issue tonight.
There were nine other objections.
Plans for a new mosque in the nearby City of Casey have also generated community debate.
About 1600 people have signed a petition against the mosque, which would be built next to the headquarters of evangelical Christian church Catch the Fire Ministries.
Casey Council is expected to consider the application next month.