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Gungahlin mosque objectors to petition ACT govt

Date

Lisa Cox

In favour of the development is Gungahlin resident, Ayoub Bouguettaya, 21, who attended the private mosque meeting at the Gungahlin Library. He is pictured at the proposed site at the Valley Avenue, Gungahlin.

In favour of the development is Gungahlin resident, Ayoub Bouguettaya, 21, who attended the private mosque meeting at the Gungahlin Library. He is pictured at the proposed site at the Valley Avenue, Gungahlin. Photo: Melissa Adams

Canberra residents who attended a closed-door meeting about the construction of a mosque in Gungahlin will petition the ACT government to block the development.

Thirty residents, most objecting to the mosque, attended the closed meeting at Gungahlin Library yesterday after responding to an anonymous flyer distributed in the northern suburb last week.

The pamphlet, by a group called the Concerned Citizens of Canberra, urged residents to oppose the development on The Valley Avenue because of its ''social impact'' and potential impact on traffic, noise and the scenery of the neighbourhood.

The Canberra Times was asked to leave yesterday's meeting after a majority in attendance said they did not want media present.

A spokesman for the group, who asked not to be named, later rejected comments by ACT Labor backbencher John Hargreaves that the flyer was ''a KKK attack on the Muslim community''.

''It was more about the planning of the mosque itself and the lack of consultation and that there was not enough consultation given to the community,'' the spokesman said.

''There have been some pieces issued in the paper over two years or so.

''But they're just small things and a lot of people in the community wouldn't have read it for starters.'' The spokesman said residents feared the mosque, which neighbours a church, would impact on parking and roads in the area.

Others questioned the process through which the ACT government had sold the land for development.

''There were concerns about the numbers, with the mosque, what would go on at the mosque, if you look at say other cities, what do mosques do there?'' he said.

''It's incredible, even in Sydney, they're a no-go zone.

''When you look at the impact of these places, and perhaps not all mosques do have that, but some do, it creates that no-go zone. Now, in their own country, and there's heaps of other countries, that's their thing. But here in Australia, I should be free to walk down a place, be it in the middle of prayers or other times, just like anyone else can.''

The spokesman said residents would write to their MLAs opposing the development and some would organise petitions.

He said the group had distributed the flyer anonymously because they feared negative reactions.

''The whole point of this is we should be free and open to say what we feel, without being labelled Ku Klux Klan or 'I'm going to take you to the Human Rights Commission'.''

Gungahlin resident Ayoub Bouguettaya attended yesterday's meeting in support of the mosque development. A practising Muslim, Mr Bouguettaya questioned why there had not been similar objections to the construction of the nearby Uniting Church, which also supports the mosque development. ''They kept complaining about parking, they said 24/7 there's going to be cars,'' he said. ''The feeling in the room was that although they contest planning, they kept on bringing it back to social impact.''

ACT Multicultural Affairs Minister Joy Burch said she would refer the flyer to the Human Rights Commission today. ''There's an irony - and perhaps that's too subtle a word - that in their original leaflet they say the proponents of the mosque aren't being open and transparent, and yet this has been done behind closed doors,'' she said.

Canberrans have until July 6 to comment on the development application.

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