Melbourne: Councillors approve mosque, call opponents ‘un-Australian’

Monash councillors last night questioned residents’ hysteria regarding the Muslim faith as they approved a mosque in a Clayton street. Several councillors said they were disappointed a proposal for a one-storey mosque in Beddoe Ave, Clayton, had been drawn into the public eye.

The plans were brought before the council by Mulgrave ward Cr Robert Davies, who said the mosque would be built in an inappropriate location and impact adversely on residents. But the city’s other ten councillors disagreed, voting to approve the plans in front of a packed council chambers.

Glen Waverley ward Cr Geoff Lake said anyone who shared Cr Davies’ view that the mosque was inappropriate were “20 years too late”. He said those with the view the mosque should be refused on religious grounds were “misinformed, prejudicial and un-Australian”.

Cr Stephen Dimopoulos said the council’s decision had been based on planning policy, rather than religion. “It’s not only 100 per cent correct in planning terms, but it’s 100 per cent correct in humanitarian terms,” Cr Dimopoulos said.

It came after a member of the public, Elizabeth Kendal, used public question time to ask the council and Monash University to monitor the mosque’s activities if the proposal was approved. She said she was concerned the building could become a teaching place for “radical fundamentalist Islam”.

Cr Lake said councillors were disgusted with emails and phone calls they had received from residents disapproving the proposal. “Probably 98 per cent of the community share the views of the councillors,” Cr Lake said.

Mulgrave ward Cr Paul Klisaris said people needed to realise “Islam is not an evil religion” and said those who did not support the proposal failed to understand the faith.

The mosque will replace a weatherboard house, which has been used as a place of prayer since 1994. The mosque will be accessed through Monash University, which will provide parking on its grounds. It will have space for 185 people.

Residents and members of the Muslim community were so desperate to hear the verdict, some sat on the floor of the council chambers and the crowd spilled outside.

The approval came after Cr Lake changed a section of the motion to allow the mosque to open for morning prayers at 5.30am. In a fiery meeting, Cr Davies twice accused Cr Lake of code of conduct violations, only to be told to be quiet by Mayor Micaela Drieberg.

One resident lashed the council after the decision was handed down, questioning why he had not been able to speak to the motion.

Waverley Leader, 30 January 2013