The City of Casey located in Melbourne’s growing south-eastern suburbs has approved the construction of two new mosques in a 7-3 vote at a restricted council meeting last night.
Council meetings are normally open to the public, but last night due to the sensitive nature of the mosque applications only 15-20 people were admitted into the meeting. The remaining attendees had to watch a Facebook livestream of the meeting in another room.
The council had also organised a police presence at the council meeting as emotions were running high.
One of the approved mosques is located at Narre Warren North to be built by the Saarban Islamic Trust and will fit 372 worshippers. The other will be located in Doveton to be built by the Afghan Islamic Centre and Omar Farooq Mosque and will feature a morque and fit 600 worshippers.
The Narre Warren North mosque received 773 written objections from residents in the area. These accounted for 90% of the submissions on the mosque application who lived in the City of Casey. Yet the council still approved its construction.
The voice of the objectors at council level has been Deputy Mayor Rosalie Crestani. She ran in the just passed federal election as the lead Victorian Senate candidate for the Rise Up Australia Party, a party known for its opposition to Islamic immigration to Australia and the spread of Islamism. The party recently voluntary deregistered.
Although Cr Crestani said that the increasing Islamization of the area due to more mosques was an area of concern for local residents, most of the objections referred to traffic, planning and green wedge concerns.
The City of Casey put out a statement on their Facebook page outlining their reasons for approving the applications. They did not mention the word mosque, only refering to approving a place of worship. Commentors on the post knew that this was a mosque and there were many hostile comments, many residents vowing to remember this vote next council election.
Objectors can still appeal the approval of the mosques at the Victorian Civil and Adminstrative Tribunal.
Adel Salman from the Islamic Council of Victoria said objections to the mosque applications were ‘Islamophobic’. He added that the City of Casey had displayed Islamophobia frequently over the past few years ‘If you look at the response from the community in the past few years, a lot of the sentiments have bordered on Islamophobia.
Given it is one of Melbourne’s biggest growth areas, added to the multicultural demographics of the council area these won’t be the last mosque applications to come before council.