Anti-Islamic group moves to stop mosque in Ballarat, Victoria

Restore Australia logoAn anti-Islamic group is mobilising against Ballarat’s first mosque. Restore Australia, which describes Islam on its website as a “aggressive totalitarian political ideology”, plans to letterbox people in Ballarat to “mobilise people to write to the council” to oppose the building of a mosque at 116 Elsworth Street East in Ballarat.

The Islamic Society of Ballarat has purchased the property and been granted a planning permit by the City of Ballarat. The planning permit required amendments to the original plan submitted by the Islamic Society, including changes to car parking to improve disability access and lighting.

Restore Australia chief executive officer Mike Holt said supporters of the group in Ballarat were being organised to protest the building of the mosque. He said Islam was incompatible with the Australian way of life. “Islam wants to bring in sharia law. It doesn’t matter (which branch of Islam) because they all believe in the same Islam, the same prophet Muhammad and the same God Allah,” Mr Holt said.

“A mosque is the thin end of the wedge to Islamise our society. They build a mosque and then more Muslims move in. We’re opposing the mosque on the grounds of a lack of parking, traffic congestion, pollution, and that property prices in the area will come down because of its presence.”

The Islamic Society of Ballarat estimates 65 Muslim families live in Ballarat, while an additional 150 Muslims are students at Federation University. With no existing mosque in Ballarat, prayers are held at the university’s prayer room. The planned mosque will be large enough for 150 people to conduct their prayers.

Dr Ibrahim Sultan, who lives in Melbourne but works at Federation University in Ballarat, said the vast majority of Muslims in Ballarat would be classified as moderates and that the mosque would be as much a community centre as it would be a place of worship.

“There is nothing to fear. It is about building bridges and trust,” Dr Sultan said. “It is merely to establish a place that is partially for worship but also to put together activities and create a situation where there is dialogue and communication. People from all communities, not just Muslims, will be welcome.

“There are different versions of Islam and I’d say most Muslims in Ballarat are very moderate. They are mainly professionals working in industries such as health services, or students, or academics. This is a community that contributes to Ballarat. There is nothing secretive about it.”

Islam’s primary day of worship is Friday. Dr Sultan said in Australia the call to prayer is usually broadcast inside the mosque and not externally as is the case in some Islamic countries.

Border Mail, 3 February 2014

Update:  See Ihsan Ul Haq Bajwa, “The Islamic community deserves its first mosque”, Ballarat Courier, 5 February 2014