About 800 people gathered in Camden, New South Wales, (a suburb located in the outskirts of western Sydney) and raised their voices against the plan for an Islamic School to be built in the area.
Their demonstration was followed by a forum organised by the Christian Democratic Party and other Christian Groups. Among others, Mr Fred Nile, MP, of the Christian Democratic Party was a prominent speaker. This was supposed to be an open forum to discuss the issue of the proposed Islamic School but there was no Muslim-speaker invited.
Almost every speaker spoke against Islam and Muslims using inflammatory statements and warnings. In their support against the Islamic school the speakers described Muslims as terrorists and Islam as a religion of hatred referring to the global situation of terrorists’ attacks and bomb blasts.
The speakers argued that if the Islamic School is built in the Camden area then it would be a threat to their way of life and culture. Moreover, it was claimed the school will teach terrorism to the Muslim children. They warned that by permitting an Islamic school to be built in Camden it would encourage the Muslim community to build more Islamic centres in other areas, which would then endanger Australian society.
Since the local Islamic society lodged the application to the Camden Council for Al Amanah Islamic College, for about 1,200 students, a section of local community has continuously opposed the school’s plan and has threatened to resist it physically if the council or Environmental Court approves the school’s plan and construction goes ahead.
Last month, pig’s heads were found at the site of the proposed school.
The decision for planning approval for the proposed Islamic school is expected in March 2008. The Council has received 1,829 submissions against the school and 649 in the favour.
This is not the first time there has been resistance against the building of an Islamic Centre. In the past groups of local residents have campaigned against the development of Islamic centres or mosques at various sites.
On the other hand, Muslims in Australia have been great contributors to Australian society. History shows that from 1860 to 1930 more than 3,000 labours, cameleers and farmers were brought to Australia, from the southern and northern parts of the Indian Subcontinent (parts of which are now Pakistan), by the then English rulers. Most of these were Muslims. They were the pioneers in the development of the Australian interior infrastructure.
They were not big in numbers compared to other ethnic groups who migrated in that period from other parts of the world; however, they made a substantial contribution by opening up inland Australia. They spent their entire lives, working in remote areas, building railway tracks, bridges and highways.
In time, they and their next generations completely assimilated into Australian society while following their faith and religious obligations. The first mosque in Australia was built at Marree in northern South Australia in 1861; the second big mosque was built in Adelaide in 1890; another mosque was built in 1908 in Brisbane (Queensland); and similarly the first mosque in New South Wales was built in 1891 in Broken Hill.
According to statistical reports, there are now more than 300,000 Muslims living in Australia from various ethnic backgrounds. Fifty per cent of Australian Muslims are under the age of 25 and the majority have been educated in Australia.
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