Australian Muslim prayer hall site vandalized

SYDNEY — The site of a controversial Muslim prayer hall was vandalized on Thursday with pigs’ heads skewered on stakes and pork offal smeared throughout the building.

Developer Abbas Aly said builders renovating the hall at Annangrove discovered the vandalism when they arrived at work on Thursday morning. “Everyone’s mostly upset, it’s a very un-Australian thing to happen,” he said. “But this won’t put us off.”

The prayer hall attracted fierce opposition when it was first proposed in 2002, with the local Baulkham Hills Council receiving an unprecedented 5,000 letters from residents who did not want the building.

The council rejected a development application for the house of worship, saying it would impact on the rural-residential character of the area and cause social unrest and anti-social behaviour. But the New South Wales Land and Environment Court overturned the decision and said it was the right of all Australians to practise their religious beliefs.

Aly said the attack was the first racist incident since the prayer hall opened 12 months ago. “That’s what has surprised everyone, nothing’s happened, everyone’s going pretty well and getting along pretty nicely,” he said. “But I think this is just people wanting to create trouble, with nothing better to do.”

A report by the Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission released this month found there had been an upsurge of bias towards Muslims since the September 11, 2001, terror attacks on the United States, with 90 percent of Australian Muslim women saying they had experienced abuse or violence because of terrorism.

Khaleej Times, 24 June 2004