Vandals attack site of proposed Islamic centre
THE SITE of a proposed Islamic centre at Toolooa has become the target of a hate attack.
A boundary fence at the Anson Cl site was spray painted with anti-Islamic and racist messages some time before yesterday morning.
The messages read "No mosque", "No sharia law", "No child brides" and "P*ss off m***rats".
Islamic Society of Gladstone president Mohammad Uddin released a short statement after the graffiti was discovered at the site.
"We have informed the Gladstone Police about the trespassing and vandalism at the property," he said.
"The issue is being investigated by the Gladstone Police.
"We thank the community for their support."
The Islamic Society of Gladstone is behind the proposal to build an Islamic centre at the site, as distinct from a "mosque" as the development is often referred to.
The centre will include a prayer area but also a multi-purpose hall, library and nursery room.
The society aims to host open days, youth development activities and multi-faith dialogues at the centre.
Barb Smith, treasurer of the Gladstone Region Safe Communities group which opposes the centre's development, said the attack was the wrong way for people opposed to the centre to voice their opposition.
"We definitely don't support damage to property," she said.
"It's absolutely disgusting.
"I'm in Crime Stoppers and when people talk to me about doing stuff like that, I always say 'I wouldn't do that, that's not what you do, and besides that it's a criminal offence'."
When asked if many people had talked to her about acting out something like the attack, she said "Not a lot".
"You just get the odd one that's angry," she said.
Kim Vuga, who founded the Stop the Mosque Gladstone Facebook page and the Love Australia or Leave political party, joined Mrs Smith in condemning the vandalism.
"I am totally against any form of violence or any damage to property," she said.
"We have laws in place and obviously people who are found damaging property, whether it's a church or an Islamic centre, (they) should be prosecuted."
But she blamed the Gladstone Regional Council for the graffiti attack on the fence around the site.
"The blame can lay with council for not organising or allowing a community meeting on the issue," she said.
"It could have been held, concerns could have been addressed.
"When you start to block freedom of speech, people are going to react, so I do lay blame with the council and the CEO who stopped us from being able to hire a hall."
Mayor Matt Burnett rejected Ms Vuga's statement out of hand.
"That's a load of rubbish," he said.
"This woman does not live in our community, I'm interested in what people in our community have to say.
"Her opinion is irrelevant to me."
He said the reason the council had made that decision was out of concerns there could have been damage to property.
"We reserve the right to refuse anyone access to public buildings for those reasons," he said.
"And I wonder why no one else wanted to make a building available to her."
He said the vandalism attack on the Islamic centre site was disappointing.
"At the end of the day, a significant number of our medical professionals in the Gladstone region are Muslims," he said.
"There are long-established businesses in that area that more than likely have CCTV... if you were walking down the road with a spray can that night you might be in for a surprise."
Cr Burnett said the final decision on the centre's development proposal would be made purely on planning grounds.
"When it comes to council in the next few weeks, I think towards the end of April, our officers will make a recommendation," he said.
"It will be based on planning principles and councillors will vote on those officers' recommendations."