ACT News

Prayers to continue at Islamic Centre despite vandalism

The ACT's religious community has rallied around the Canberra Islamic Centre, describing Sunday's vandalism as ''appalling'' and ''deplorable''.

Mohamad Saleh leads evening prayers at the Canberra Islamic Centre with, from left,  Amadu Barrie, Ali Rahmam, Faisal ...
Mohamad Saleh leads evening prayers at the Canberra Islamic Centre with, from left, Amadu Barrie, Ali Rahmam, Faisal Al-Mdwali, Kalam Azad, Mohammed Al-Mdwaly, Umar Ali and Zia Ur-Rahman. Photo: Melissa Adams

Australian Centre for Christianity and Culture executive director Stephen Pickard said the vicious crimes against the centre, which was ransacked by vandals in Tuggeranong on Sunday, were not representative of Canberra.

''My first thought was, 'that's their home'. If somebody came to my home and trashed it I would feel traumatised, hurt and outraged,'' he said.

''We have a vibrant interfaith network that I'm part of in Canberra and the relationships are excellent … [so] this recent act of vandalism is appalling.

''I don't think this reflects where this community wants to be and where it is going in the future.''

Anglican diocese of Canberra and Goulburn spokesman Wayne Brighton said the crime had saddened everyone who valued Canberra's diverse and welcoming nature.

''We pray not only that the centre might recover quickly but that peace, goodwill and understanding might grow ever deeper as a result,'' he said.

Canberra Islamic Council president Azra Khan said they would not let growing security fears stop them from congregating and holding their daily prayers.

While the centre remains vandalised, with broken glass furniture littering the floor, she said daily prayers would go ahead as usual, but outside the centre.

"All of our prayers are going to be held outdoors for those who can withstand the weather while we are temporarily closed, until we start the clean-up tomorrow," she said.

Ms Khan said the centre at Monash was ''desperately in need of additional security arrangements, as we can't secure the place on our own''.

She said the attack on a focal point of the Islamic community had unnerved many people and left them concerned for their safety. "This is a place where our community come to eat and gather on a daily basis," she said. "For it to be invaded in the way that it was is very unsettling."

Members of the Canberra Islamic Centre discovered the damage when they arrived for evening prayers about 5.30pm on Sunday.

Expletives were sprayed on the walls and kerosene had been poured on the ground.

The centre's kitchen and dining hall were in disarray, with taps left running and flour and cutlery strewn over the floor.

Several Islamic paintings were ripped from the walls, while others had holes punched in them.

Bookcases inside the National Islamic Library, which is part of the centre, were pushed over and hundreds of books had been flung on the floor.

Ms Khan said it appeared the vandals had gained entrance to the property using bolt cutters to open a section of the fence.

It was previously believed they had climbed over the metal fence that surrounds the Clive Steel Avenue property between 7am and 5.30pm.

''Clearly they had a lot of time and wanted to cause as much damage as possible,'' she said.

Ms Khan said she had received overwhelming support from members of the local community, with many calling to express their concerns and to offer support, including from the Canberra Multicultural Community's Sam Wong.

The centre has launched a bank account for people to donate funds towards the renovation of the centre and the clean-up.

Ms Khan said several people had already made contributions to the fund.

Senator Kate Lundy condemned the attack on the Islamic Centre as ''detestable''.

''It was particularly disturbing to hear that the centre was so badly damaged, its evening worshippers were forced to pray outside in the cold and the dark,'' she said.

''Today the Canberra Islamic Centre should be running classes and conducting prayers - instead its members will spend the day tallying up the damages.''