Community support: Religious, diplomatic and local groups are helping clean up the damage caused by vandals at the Canberra Islamic Centre. Photo: Melissa Adams
Religious, diplomatic and local communities have joined forces to clean up the destruction caused by vandals at the Canberra Islamic Centre on Sunday.
Federal MP Gai Brodtmann said the scenes of destruction she witnessed on Monday spoke of “hatred and malice in every room”.
I don’t believe that people have a right to be bigots – or to be vandalsSt Mary MacKillop College principal Michael Lee
“In the foyer of the centre there was kerosene all over the floor, which indicated to me that someone had intended to start a fire in the building,” she said.
People have been forced outside for daily prayers. Photo: Melissa Adams
An ACT Policing spokeswoman said a container of solvent had been emptied in the foyer, although water had also been found on the floor.
Canberra Islamic Centre president Azra Khan said the solvent - either methylated spirits or turpentine - had been discovered at the centre and the liquid “was clearly poured onto the paintings we had hanging on the walls”.
Ms Khan said there were no solvents stored at the Islamic centre and it had most likely been brought by the vandals.
Ms Brodtmann said "the nature of the vandalism underscored the level of hatred that was behind this violent attack," she said.
"It really disturbed me and upset me."
Meanwhile, the ACT Government has given the Canberra Islamic Centre a $5000 grant to install a new security system.
Ms Brodtmann has joined community and religious leaders to organise a public clean-up at the centre from 2pm on Wednesday.
The principal of St Mary MacKillop College, which has shared a street corner with the Islamic centre for more than 10 years, said he would be attending the clean-up along with board members as students.
“If this is an attack on the centre because of their faith then I think it’s important that people from other faiths come go to the centre and stand with them,” he said.
“I don’t believe that people have a right to be bigots – or to be vandals.”
The mess in the Canberra Islamic Centre is worse than I was expecting, but many hands are onto it. pic.twitter.com/8FoU2cpKEO— David Pope (@davpope) April 16, 2014
Ms Khan said she had been in contact with the Moroccan Ambassador, who had rallied support from 18 other embassies to assist with the clean up.
Minister for Multicultural Affairs Joy Burch also attended the cleanup.
LifeCity Church pastor Josh Reading said his congregation was shocked by the vandalism and would be helping, too.
“It’s Easter and nothing says sacrifice and service like looking after your neighbours, no matter what background they are from,” he said.
Retired Catholic Bishop Pat Power said Ms Brodtmann contacted him on Tuesday evening and urged parishes in the Tuggeranong area to join the operation.
St Anthony’s Church in Wanniassa, St Thomas the Apostle Church in Kambah and Corpus Christi Parish in South Tuggeranong have all confirmed asking their congregations to assist with the clean up.
Canberra.. Does not allow hatred. Hundreds here at the Canberra Islamic Centre cleaning up. pic.twitter.com/z6Uq7bdSLd— David Sharaz (@DavidSharaz) April 16, 2014
Ms Khan said she hoped the community clean-up would enable Friday prayers to be held inside.
“It’s not so much the physical aspect of cleaning that is important to us, but more the symbolic gesture of people from all over Canberra offering to help,” she said.
“We have been absolutely inundated with emails and phone calls from people offering financial assistance, to texts, emails, phone calls and offers to come and clear up.”
While Ms Khan was hesitant to suggest who was behind the attack, she believed the vandalism was directly related to a burglary that occurred at the centre on March 3.
ACT Police said investigations into both incidents were ongoing and a link between the vandalism and the burglary had not yet been established.
Ms Brontman’s office has called on Canberrans to bring gloves, protective footwear, brooms and mops to the Canberra Islamic Centre from 2pm onward.