Mosque approved amid fear and anger

Mosque approved amid fear and anger Police had a large presence at the meeting with a waiting car with extra members outside.Picture: JIM ALDERSEY
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Residents holds signs to voice their opinion.Picture: JIM ALDERSEY

A mans wears an armband “Ban Islam” before the meeting. He later took off the arm band.Picture: JIM ALDERSEY

A mans wears an armband “Ban Islam” before the meeting. He later took off the arm band.Picture: JIM ALDERSEY

A mans wears an armband “Ban Islam” before the meeting. He later took off the arm band.Picture: JIM ALDERSEY

Mayor Barry Lyons enters the meeting.Picture: JIM ALDERSEY

Cr James Williams enters the meeting.Picture: JIM ALDERSEY

Cr Lisa Ruffell enters the meeting.Picture: JIM ALDERSEY

Cr Mark Weragoda and Cr Lisa Ruffell enter the meeting.Picture: JIM ALDERSEY

Cr Helen Leach enters the meeting.Picture: JIM ALDERSEY

CoGB CEO Craig Niemann enters the meeting.Picture: JIM ALDERSEY

Manager of Executive Services Peter Davies and Cr Elise Chapman enter the meeting.Picture: JIM ALDERSEY

Manager of Executive Services Peter Davies enter the meeting.Picture: JIM ALDERSEY

Cr Peter Cox enters the meeting.Picture: JIM ALDERSEY

Cr Rod Fyffe enters the meeting.Picture: JIM ALDERSEY

City of Greater Bendigo Council meeting at the Bendigo Town Hall. The meeting approved a Mosque in Bendigo. Picture: JIM ALDERSEY

City of Greater Bendigo Council meeting at the Bendigo Town Hall. Picture: JIM ALDERSEY

Mayor Barry Lyons.Picture: JIM ALDERSEY

Residents voice their concerns at the meeting during question time.Picture: JIM ALDERSEY

City of Greater Bendigo Council meeting at the Bendigo Town Hall. Picture: JIM ALDERSEY

Residents voice their concerns at the meeting during question time.Picture: JIM ALDERSEY

Residents held signs to voice their opinion.Picture: JIM ALDERSEY

Residents held signs to voice their opinion.Picture: JIM ALDERSEY

City of Greater Bendigo Council meeting at the Bendigo Town Hall. The meeting approved a Mosque in Bendigo. Picture: JIM ALDERSEY

City of Greater Bendigo Council meeting at the Bendigo Town Hall. The meeting approved a Mosque in Bendigo. Picture: JIM ALDERSEY

Residents voice their concerns at the meeting during question time.Picture: JIM ALDERSEY

Manager of Executive Services Peter Davies, Mayor Barry Lyons and CEO Craig Niemann.Picture: JIM ALDERSEY

Anti-Islamic flyers where scattered throughout the gallery.Picture: JIM ALDERSEY

Residents voice their concerns at the meeting during question time.Picture: JIM ALDERSEY

Prue Mansfield responds to a question at the meeting.Picture: JIM ALDERSEY

Residents voice their concerns at the meeting during question time.Picture: JIM ALDERSEY

Residents voice their concerns at the meeting during question time.Picture: JIM ALDERSEY

Director of City Planning Prue Mansfield.Picture: JIM ALDERSEY

City of Greater Bendigo Council meeting at the Bendigo Town Hall. The meeting approved a Mosque in Bendigo. Picture: JIM ALDERSEY

City of Greater Bendigo Council meeting at the Bendigo Town Hall. The meeting approved a Mosque in Bendigo. Picture: JIM ALDERSEY

Cr James Williams talks during the meeting.Picture: JIM ALDERSEY

Cr Peter Cox talks during the meeting.Picture: JIM ALDERSEY

City of Greater Bendigo Council meeting at the Bendigo Town Hall. The meeting approved a Mosque in Bendigo. Picture: JIM ALDERSEY

Cr Elise Chapman talks during the meeting.Picture: JIM ALDERSEY

Residents holds signs to voice their opinion.Picture: JIM ALDERSEY

Residents holds signs to voice their opinion.Picture: JIM ALDERSEY

Cr Elise Chapman and Cr Peter Cox.Picture: JIM ALDERSEY

Cr Lisa Ruffell talks during the meeting.Picture: JIM ALDERSEY

Cr Rod Fyffe talks during the meeting.Picture: JIM ALDERSEY

Manager of Executive Services Peter Davies, Mayor Barry Lyons and CEO Craig Niemann.Picture: JIM ALDERSEY

Cr James Williams talks during the meeting.Picture: JIM ALDERSEY

Cr James Williams talks during the meeting.Picture: JIM ALDERSEY

Councillors voting for the mosque.Picture: JIM ALDERSEY

Councillors voting against the mosque.Picture: JIM ALDERSEY

Residents voting against the Mosque. (residents cannot vote at council meetings)Picture: JIM ALDERSEY

Residents made signs to voice their opinion.Picture: JIM ALDERSEY

TweetFacebookHOW IT UNFOLDED: City of Greater Bendigo councillors debate mosque plan

OTHER COUNCIL NEWS:Liveability key item for councillors

UPDATE 8.45am THURSDAY: City of Greater Bendigo mayorBarry Lyons issued a statement this morning, reading:

“The Greater Bendigo council has tonight approved a planning application to build a Mosque in Rowena Street, East Bendigo.

“There are many conditions on the permit to make sure the impact on neighbours is acceptable.

“The city received more than 350 objections to the development and more than 40 submissions of support.

“Now a decision has been made, the applicants can move forward with the next stage in the development process.”

WEDNESDAY: A LONE manstood up in the City of Greater Bendigo council meeting tonightand yelled “I support the mosque” amid fury from a vocal group of residents who claim the place of worshipwill incite terrorism upon Bendigo.

The $3 million proposal was approved by councillors in a six-two vote, with several members of the public gallery screaming, “Shame on you, shame” when the decision was passed down.

Protesters packed the chamber for two hours of fierce debate over the Rowena Street proposal. One woman asked the councillors if they would be able to sleep at night if Islam “descended” on Bendigo; another asked what safe measures had been put in place to stop a terrorist attack.

The project, funded by the Australian Islamic Mission, attracted 254 objections and 40 submissions in support. Most of the objectorsbased their submissionson religious grounds, including fears the mosque would create a Muslim “enclave” and a drop in house prices.

Councillor support for the planning proposal was drowned out by anger and threats from the protesters, with one playing Middle Eastern music as Councillor Mark Weragoda spoke.

When asked to turn it off, the man said “Oh you don’t like the sound of that” which received applause and laughter from the crowd.

Cr Weragoda, who has personally received threats from protesters,said he was angry so many people were “against multiculturalism”, to which Cr Elise Chapman responded “I am disgraced by that (comment)”.

“Look at my skin colour,” Cr Weragoda saidbefore he was drowned out by jeering.

“I know all about (multiculturalism)”.

He went on to say that the mosque could be used for marriages and funerals, witha member of the gallery replying, “yeah, to young girls”.

During the meeting Cr Chapman read a letter she had received from a protester, which stated that “jihadist groups kill people” and that Muslim families had more children than other people.

“The mosque will be run under Islamic regulations,” she went on to say.

“It will compromise future (residential and industrial) options … and mosques have been refused elsewhere.”

Cr Helen Leach, who moved a motion to defer the decision for two months,backed Cr Chapman’s statements, saying she had no doubt that the mosque would impact on residential amenity.

Council officers recommended councillors approve the proposal, concluding there was no reason not to grant the permit, subject to a number of conditions including a reduction in the minaret height.

“The weight of objections received is not of and in itself sufficient reason to refuse any planning application,” the officers wrote.

Some residents shared concerns about increased traffic and insufficient car parking, but Cr Lisa Ruffell said all places of worship had similar issues andwere allowed.

When moving the motion, Cr James Williams said that freedom of belief was what made Australia such a valued place to live.

“We live in a tolerant country with laws made by our state and federal counterparts that deal with and spell out the separation of powers from government and religion,” he said.

“We are a tolerant nation and we do not allow extreme actions and racist behaviour to go unpunished in our society.”

Following the heated meeting, applicant Munshi Nawaz, who is a Muslim himself, encouraged freedom of speech and said it was “fine” that people had expressed such strong views.

However he acknowledged that there was a lot of misinformationsurrounding the mosque and Islam itself.

“It was to be expected and I don’t think the views heard tonight really represent how Bendigo feels about Islam as a religion,” he said.

“I have lived in Bendigo for six years and am welcomed by the community.”

He said if he had met the protesters in the street, it would have been a different story.

“I don’t think they are against Muslims themselves, they just have a lot of misinformation about Islam and what it means. It doesn’t mean terrorism.

“Their fears are not based in any truth.”

Member for Bendigo East, Jacinta Allan, said the views of the “mob” did not represent the majority of the local community and some of the protesters did not live in Bendigo.

“I think the councillors who stared down intolerance and should be applauded,” she said.

“The general (view on the mosque)is that it’s just a planning matter that should be treated like any other planning matter.”

Federal member for Bendigo Lisa Chesters congratulated the local councillors for standing up for the majority of Bendigo people “who support multiculturalism and are excited to share the many cultures that make up Bendigo”.

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