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Mosque proposal divides residents

Date

Lisa Cox

Artist impression of the Gungahlin Mosque.

Artist impression of the Gungahlin Mosque.

ACT planners have been told that women in burqas will scare children in Gungahlin if Canberra's Muslim community proceeds with plans to build a mosque in the area.

The ACT Planning and Land Authority has received more than 50 submissions in response to the proposed development on The Valley Avenue.

It follows a campaign by a group called the ''Concerned Citizens of Canberra'' that urged residents to object to the development because of its ''social impact'' and concerns about traffic and noise.

The Canberra Times revealed on Saturday that the group's spokesman, Irwin Ross, is a Christian fundamentalist activist who describes himself as a pastor with Olive Tree Ministries.

More than 30 submissions lodged with ACTPLA object to the development on grounds including traffic, parking, design, lack of consultation and, according to one anonymous submission, claims the mosque is not ''compatible with Australian values and Australian law''.

But a further 20 Canberra residents wrote to the government in support of the development, some complaining about the anonymous anti-mosque flyers that were delivered to their homes.

One objection to the mosque asks the ACT government if it can ''assure the citizens of Gungahlin that this centre will not be taken over by extremists, bent on bringing chaos to our immediate community''.

Another claims the sight of women wearing burqas will be ''perturbing'' for children in the area.

One Gungahlin resident complains Muslims have to: ''obey the Koran and therefore Sharia law. This means that Sharia law will always come first and Australian law second''.

''I am particularly worried about the women and girls,'' the resident's letter states.

''In the DA [development application] several rooms are allocated for weekend classes - which means that all the girls from early age on will have Koran lessons and therefore will have no real chance to get integrated in Australian society.''

A number of objections use template letters supplied by the Concerned Citizens of Canberra, while several others complain the mosque will create too much traffic congestion.

However, 20 letters urge the ACT government to approve the development, with one submission stating it will ''complement the two existing churches''. ''As a resident of Gungahlin town centre I would be materially affected by this development,'' the submission states.

''As such I strongly support this development.

''It is appropriate to the town centre, an appropriate design and the road network is designed to handle the surges in traffic.''

Another resident complains about the flyer they received from the Concerned Citizens of Canberra and says the group's objections to the mosque are ''flimsy at best and outright bigoted at worst''.

''Though I am not a religious person I feel that someone should be just as free to build a mosque as a church and having it near Gungahlin town centre seems as good a location as any in the area,'' the submission states.

A spokeswoman for the Environment and Sustainable Development Directorate said additional submissions were still arriving by post and were being accepted, provided the letter was stamped before the deadline for comment.

Meanwhile, the Australian Motorists Party candidate for Ginninderra Chic Henry said he believed the development would create traffic congestion.

34 comments

  • Wait till there's a call to prayer at 4 am in the morning! I wonder if people have considered this for down the track.

    Commenter
    Olivia
    Date and time
    July 10, 2012, 10:13AM
    • Olivia please check the facts about the proposal. The opposition to the mosque is full of misinformation or assumptions like this one.

      Commenter
      Ben
      Location
      Canberra
      Date and time
      July 10, 2012, 10:33AM
    • Olivia,

      You would have to be in the streets in order to hear the call for prayers as most of the houses are well insulated and have noise reduction material. Do not worry, you will sleep through it.

      Commenter
      Muslim
      Location
      Canberra
      Date and time
      July 10, 2012, 4:00PM
    • Pretty sure that's not even happening, why spread misinformation to support this arguement?

      Commenter
      Future
      Date and time
      July 10, 2012, 4:18PM
    • Olivia. My understanding is that this Mosque will not be 'calling for prayer' at any time during the day. I stand to be corrected.

      Do you have concerns about Catholic churches ringing their bells for mass on Sundays?

      Frankly, I'm secular, and would be tickled pink if we had no churches, temples, pagodas, shrines whateves in Canberra. However. if people need to have these places of worship, so be it. Let them have them, whatever the denomination. As long as they do not intrude on my space, frankly my dear, I don't give a damn.

      Commenter
      BBA
      Location
      Banks
      Date and time
      July 10, 2012, 4:44PM
  • ACTPLA, help! We're surrounded by five churches, within a kilometre.

    Commenter
    Stephen
    Date and time
    July 10, 2012, 10:27AM
    • "women in burqas will scare the kiddies" is such a patently ridiculous argument that I can't believe that any person with a working brain cell would think it would sway ppl around to their way of thinking. Is Canberra such a WASP-filled enclave that the sight of a woman who covers her head would be something to give the poor little pets nightmares? Perhaps they can go back to watching Terminator III or MTV - I'm sure that will soothe their troubled souls.

      The fact that this tripe has been used at all demonstrates clearly the complete lack of empathy, knowledge or compassion for other religions. Just what I'd expect from "Concerned Citizens of Canberra". Clearly their "concern" is only for those deemed acceptable by Olive Tree Ministries.

      Commenter
      Sera Pinwill
      Location
      Granville
      Date and time
      July 10, 2012, 10:37AM
      • Ben, I am talking 20 years away where what was originally planned will probably no longer be relevant

        Commenter
        Olivia
        Date and time
        July 10, 2012, 10:41AM
        • 1. Canberra has churches and Buddhist and Hindu temples, why not a mosque?
          2. Beware fundamentalists of any kind, including the Christian variety.

          Commenter
          Trish
          Location
          Canberra
          Date and time
          July 10, 2012, 10:45AM
          • The need for specific places of worship and practices is out dated and not relevant in the modern world. Those poor souls who are unable to determine their own life values and make their own journey of discovery should join a political party. An 'us and them' religious mentality will and has proven to be a great source of community diversion. Look at the narrow minded people taking sides, me included. Atheism unites for all.

            Commenter
            Timmy
            Location
            Sidelines
            Date and time
            July 10, 2012, 11:09AM

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