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.
See also “ACT can be model of diversity with new mosque”,Canberra Times, 10 July 2012
And “Community council supports Gungahlin mosque proposal”,Canberra Times, 10 July 2012
You can read the full statement by Gungahlin Community Councilhere.