Australian court rules in favour of mosque in Cairns

June 27th, 2008 - 12:03 pm ICT by IANS  

By Neena Bhandari
Sydney, June 27 (IANS) Upholding the right to freedom of religion as an integral part of the Australian community, the Queensland Planning and Environment Court has cleared the way for the first mosque to be constructed in Cairns in the state of Queensland. “It is in the public interest that persons who choose that faith, just as those who choose any other faith, have access to a safe and reasonably comfortable place of gathering and worship,” Judge Keith Dodds was quoted as saying in the local media.

The decision comes close on the heels of the Adelaide City Council providing A$65,000 (US$ 61,192) government grant to repair the minarets of the oldest mosque in Australia. However, recently, Sydney’s Camden Council rejected a plan to build an Islamic school on the city’s south-western fringes after local community backlash.

For Cairns’ small Muslim community of less than 200, it has been an eight-year long battle, sometimes facing a very hostile local community with opponents claiming the mosque would become a hotbed of terrorism.

“A lot of the objections were just crazy. I mean, they wouldn’t know what goes on in a mosque. I was disappointed, but you’ve got to remember the objectors didn’t really number that many,” Cairns’ Imam Abdul Aziz Mohammed, a former sugarcane farmer and Rotary stalwart, told the local media.

Mohammad, who migrated to Cairns from India in 1900, told the Australian Associated Press, “I feel there was some anti-Islamic sentiments. This was drawn out in protest letters handed to the council.”

When asked by The Australian newspaper if Cairns was at risk of terrorist attack, resident Peter Romer, who fears property prices will plummet following the construction of the mosque, said “It will be now. Their objective isto spread their tentacles throughout Australia, bit by bit.The judge hasn’t thought of that.”

The mosque, to be constructed at a cost of about A$400,000, will include three buildings, including a tea room, an ablution room and a 22 metre long prayer hall.

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