About 800 people gathered in Camden, NSW (the suburb located in the outskirts of Sydney’s West) and raised their voice against the plan for an Islamic School to be built in the area. Their demonstration followed by a forum organized by Christina Democratic Party and other Christian Groups. Among others Mr. Fred Nile, MP, of Christian Democratic Party was the prominent speaker. This was supposed to be an open forum to discuss the issue of the proposed Islamic School but there was no Muslim-speaker invited. Almost every speaker spoke against Islam and Muslims using inflammatory statements and warnings. In their support against the Islamic school the speakers called Muslims as terrorists and Islam as religion of hatred referring to the global situation of terrorists’ attacks and bomb blasts. The speakers argued that if the Islamic School is built in the Camden area then it would be a threat to their way of life & culture and the school will teach terrorism to the Muslim children. They warned that permitting an Islamic school in Camden would encourage Muslim community to build more Islamic centres in other areas and that will bring danger to the Australian society.
Since the local Islamic society has lodged an application to the Camden Council for Al Amanah Islamic College for about 1200 students at Camden a section of local residents have continuously been opposing the school’s plan and threatening to resist physically if the Council or Environmental Court approves the school’s plan and construction goes ahead. Last month, pig heads were found at the site of the proposed school. The decision on the approval of the proposed Islamic school is expected in March next year. The Council has received 1829 submissions against the school and 649 in the favour from the public.
This is not the first time that the resistance is being created against the building of the Islamic Centre. It has been seen in the past that the section of local residents campaigned and gave tough time in the development of Islamic centres or mosques in various places.
On the other hand, Muslims in Australia have been the great contributors to the Australia from the beginning. The history shows that during the 1860 to 1930 more than 3000 labours and cameleers and farmers were brought into Australia from the southern and northern parts of the Indian Subcontinent (which are now the parts of Pakistan) by the then English rulers. Most of them were Muslims. They were the pioneers in the development of the Australian interior infrastructure. They were not in big numbers compared to the other ethnic groups which migrated in that period from other parts of the world however they made a substantial contribution in opening up inland Australia. They spent their entire lives, working in remote areas, in building railway tracks, bridges and highways. With the time, they and their next generations completely assimilated into Australian society yet they followed their faith and religious obligations like others. The first Mosque in Australia was built at Marree in Northern South Australia in 1861, second big mosque was built in Adelaide in 1890, another mosque was built in 1908 in Brisbane (Queensland) and similarly the first Mosque in New South Wales was built in 1891 in Broken Hill. According to statistical reports, today, there are more than 300,000 Muslims living in Australia from various ethnical backgrounds. 50% of Australian Muslims were under the age of 25 and majority of them educated in Australia. This large and prominent Australia-wide community is become an integral part of the Australian Society. Australian Muslims are found very constructive and affirmative in building a unified and harmonious Australia. Muslim Professionals (males or females) are found in every walk of life. They are top doctors, lawyers, technologists, journalists, educationists and so on.
Australian Muslims have always demonstrated their full commitment to keep harmony and unity with the other Australians. Even when in the neighbouring Indonesia the people were demonstrating on the street waving the portraits of Osama Bin Laden and alighting American flags against the US-led attacks on Afghanistan and Iraq the Australian Muslims showed their full responsibility and loyalty to Australia. From 9/11 attacks in US to Bali and London bomb blasts Australian Muslims loudly condemned all the acts of terrorism.
The largest Muslim country of the world, Indonesia, is Australia’s next door neighbour. Australia always has good and long-term relations with the Muslim countries. Many Australian professionals work in the Middle East, enjoy with huge earnings and get financially strong.
Talking about Islamic educational centres; just like Catholic and other religious schools, Islamic schools are also delivering quality education as per Australian educational system. According to the latest report, Malek Fahd Islamic School situated in Chullora (in Sydney) is the biggest Islamic School in Australia. Interestingly, this year Malek Fahd Islamic School is among the top 10 High Schools of New South Wales in the performance. The School is at 9th positions this year and was at 15th position last year. Although Malek Fahd Islamic School is not selective, like some other private schools, yet it has shown outstanding performance providing the highest level of education as per curriculum of New South Wales Education Department.
The question is then why a section of Australians feel threatened with their fellow Australians whose faith is Islam –” one of the great religions of Abraham (Christianity, Judaism and Islam). They openly express their hatred against Muslims in the media.
In fact the commercial media publication groups, in Australia, have played a major role in portraying Islam and Muslims as the entities of terrorism among the minds of the ordinary Australians. When these people look at Osama Bin Laden, Al-Quaeda or the Taliban through the media stories they think this is what Islam or Muslims are. Fear from these fanatic groups & individuals and feel insecure for a common person is very logical. These people are not only dangerous for non-Muslims rather equally dangerous for Muslims.
The fact of the matter is that media hardly exposed enough the tales of both amity and enmity between Osama Bin Laden, its network and the United States. And that the Osama Bin Laden and Mulla Omer had been backed by the CIA, which provided them with funds and ammunition to fight against Russian foreign forces in the name of Jihad for more than 10 years? And that the religious extremists seen in Afghanistan and Pakistan today are the same people who were supported by US in the past to establish their religious schools of thought in the towns and cities of Afghanistan and Pakistan?
Media works in public interest. How much the Australian media has fulfilled responsibilities to expose the tales of these people & groups? How many Australians would have known that these fundamentalists groups and individuals are the outcome of long-term support to them by United States in Afghanistan with the arms and money? Then, there are blatant inaccuracies involved in the casual use of terms and phrases like ‘jihad’ and ‘Islamic terrorist group’ the precise meaning of which requires a dissertation; certainly it is being crudely misrepresented by populists (Islamic and otherwise) all round the world at the present time. Islam, like other religions, is open to various interpretations, and as such it can be used to support various ends. Scholars in the field of Islamic studies know well that most informed Quranic readings need careful scholarly analysis and explanation.
The commercialized media, today, can entertain masses and simultaneously gain remarkable profits on their products, which may attract majority in the first place. However, whether these stories would promote harmony and solidarity in the multicultural Australian society is the most important question of the day, for every Australian.
The recent demonstration against the plan for Islamic school at Camden has been shown by mainstream Australian media with extensive coverage, inflammatory headlines and interviews reflecting negative image of Islam and Muslims. On the other hand, hardly any print or electronic media group has shown the other side of the story or interviews of those who want to build the Islamic School.