The City of Kalgoorlie Boulder approved the construction of a mosque in the inland city during a heated council meeting on Monday night, passing the motion six votes to four.
Acting mayor Allan Pendal said it was clear from the start of public question time the issue would be hotly contested, with what he described as a “vocal minority” clearly opposed to the planned construction of the mosque on Park Street in the suburb of Williamstown.
An alternative motion was put forward during the meeting that would have seen the application sent back to the council’s all-purpose committee to seek more information. The vote on that motion was deadlocked at 5-5, with Cr Pendal using his casting vote, as presiding officer, to defeat the motion. The original motion was then moved and passed 6-4.
Cr Pendal said the council was bound to judge the application on planning grounds, something he believed the anti-mosque supporters couldn’t comprehend.
“It was the biggest council meeting I’ve seen in nine years, we couldn’t actually fit everyone in the council chambers,” he said. “There was strong representation against the item. They were very vocal but they couldn’t seem to understand that we couldn’t judge the application on political or moral or religious grounds. This was a planning decision and they didn’t understand that despite me explaining it to them five or six times.”
He said the heckling of the anti-mosque group reached its peak during the debate of the item and at several points descended into abuse of council.
However with the motion passed, he expected that would be the end of the issue for the vast majority of Kalgoorlie residents.
“There were supporters of the mosque there, they were very quiet but you could see the support on their faces,” he said.
“Now that it has been passed, that should be the end of it – I’m sure some people will continue to try and fight it but once the decision has been made, council are the only ones that can reverse it and that’s a very difficult process. I would say it’s extremely unlikely to happen.
“Having said that there are a lot of conditions on the mosque that the applicants have to meet, and they have a long way to go before this will be up and running.”
The group “Stop the mosque in Kalgoorlie” has railed against the decision on its Facebook page, saying that City of Kalgoorlie-Boulder councillors repeatedly ignored their questions. “There were many valid points raised by some concerned citizens about the planning and extremely briefly what social impacts islam brings to a host community, every question, every query COMPLETELY IGNORED AND UNANSWERED,” they wrote.
Among its criticisms of the council meeting the “Stop the mosque in Kalgoorlie” group complains that “to top it all off a greasy slimy muslim that rekons he initiated the proposed mosque was allowed a 5 minute BS spiel about how accepting and wonderful islam is and how it’s such a peaceful religion”.