Gallery: Mosque plan sparks tension in Coolaroo

Click through the gallery above to view photos from the meeting.

Religious tensions fueled anger and anti-Australian sentiment on Monday night when more than 1000 people turned up at the Hume council chambers in Broadmeadows to protest against a plan to build a mosque next to St Mary’s Ancient Church of the East in Coolaroo.

“Thank you Australia,” more than one parishioner hurled back at councillors after they approved the plan for a Shia Muslim Al Sadiq Foundation mosque, a Lebanese-based order of Islam.

Parishioners of the Middle Eastern Christian faith turned out in force against the proposed mosque.

Of the 29 speakers on the night, Broadmeadows Progress Association led the charge, backed by Australian Christians Senate candidate Vickie Janson, who did not declare her politics on the night but spoke about the mental health issues of Christian refugees and “trauma triggers” that created volatility among local Christians.

Riot police and the dog squad turned up, allegedly called in by their Broadmeadows counterparts, who were concerned when the car parks filled and numbers in the chamber spilled over into the street.

Inside the council chamber, mayor Geoff Porter called on people to consider their children and leave the assembly peacefully after two hours of debate.

Although he voted against a permit for the mosque, Cr Porter demanded several times that speakers desist with racially inflammatory assertions, which, he said, had no place in Coolaroo, or Hume, one of Australia’s most multicultural municipalities. Cr Alan Bolton also opposed the council officers’ recommendation to grant the mosque a permit.

The crowd booed and abused those who supported the granting of the permit, after planning officers said there were no legal grounds to refuse it.

The mayor invited protesters to take their appeal to the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal.

A diverse municipality

In Coolaroo, according to the 2011 Census, 27.5 per cent of residents cite Islam as their faith, 26.6 per cent are Roman Catholic, 10 per cent claim no religion, 8.2 per cent are Anglican, and 3.5 per cent are Eastern Orthodox.

Linguistically, 39.6 per cent of people speak English as their first language, 13.9 per cent speak Arabic, 13.8 per cent Turkish, 7.5 per cent Assyrian Neo-Aramaic, 2.8 per cent Chaldean Neo-Aramaic, and 2 per cent speak Vietnamese.