Islamic boarding school in Mareeba under cloud after anti-Muslim threats

Plans for an Islamic boarding school on the Tableland appear to have stalled, with the proposed school site at Mareeba back on the market. It comes as some opposing the $70 million development threaten to “destroy the place” if the project goes ahead.

A development application for the school, which was to be Australia’s first Standard Bearer’s Academy, is yet to be assessed by the Mareeba Shire Council. However the 40ha block of land at Tinaroo Creek Rd, where the academy was to be located, has this week been relisted for sale.

The facility aimed to cater for about 1200, Year 5 to Year 12 boys, from across Australia, along with a small contingent of international students.

The school was to have an Islamic focus but it was promoted as a multi-denominational campus, open to all faiths, including Christians and other religions, and students with no religious beliefs.

The Cairns Post understands developers have pulled the pin on the land deal due to a lack of support for the project from within the community. It is not known whether they plan to target another site.

It follows last weekend’s public meetings in Cairns and Mareeba where a group launched a campaign against the school, fearing it had potential to influence young people with “the Muslim agenda”.

A Facebook page administered by the convener of the meetings, contains comments from followers who have volunteered to “destroy this place if it go’s (sic) ahead”. A person has proposed to “bury a couple of pigs on the proposed site. They wont (sic) want it any more because its (sic) against their superstitions,’’ they wrote.

Estop Islamic School Mareeba chairman Alan Webb said if the school plan was axed, it was due to the “unbelievable and incredible co-operation of everybody in Mareeba”. He was surprised the threats on social media were published, saying they were “disappointing, yet understandable. That sort of anger, I can appreciate.’’

Mareeba Mosque’s Imam, Benjamin Murat, said many of the online comments existed “everywhere in the world”. “I’m still confident that common sense will prevail and we’ll all live among our colleagues, Christian and non-Christian, and we wish everyone well.”

He said it was disappointing if the school plan failed. “I’ve always said it was a beautiful project and the people behind it were very sincere. They were motivated to bring education to as many people who could afford it.”

Mareeba Shire Council CEO Peter Franks said the council neither supported nor opposed the school. “(The developers) approached us a while ago with their proposal. We suggested they do some community consultation and then they lodged their application.”

Standard Bearers Academy did not respond to numerous requests for comment.

Cairns Post, 12 December 2014

Update:  See “Far North top cop condems anti-Islam protesters”, Cairns Post, 17 December 2014