A High Court decision has brought to an end a long-running and at times, vicious, campaign to prevent a mosque being built in Bendigo, Victoria.
The High Court decision today (Wednesday) greenlit the city’s first mosque and shutdown any further appeals from those opposing the development.
The Australian Islamic Mission first applied to Greater Bendigo City Council for a planning permit in 2013 to build a mosque on Rowena Street, East Bendigo. The council approved the planning permit in June 2014 but a series of appeals have delayed the development.
In August last year, the council was forced to counter a tide of misinformation coming from the ‘no mosque’ camp, including accusations that it was going to build 22,000 homes and accept 80,000 migrants.
Other scaremongering claims included allegations there were plans to make the proposed mosque the largest in the southern hemisphere, the first of many mosques in Bendigo, and that the extension to Bendigo’s Airport was done to encourage religious pilgrimages to Bendigo.
In October 2105, about 1,000 people demonstrated against the proposal in a protest was organised by a nationalist group called the United Patriots Front (UPF). A significant proportion of the crowd did not live locally.
Greater Bendigo City Council Mayor, Rod Fyffe, today welcomed the High Court decision to allow the city’s first mosque to be built.
Those opposing the mosque appealed Council’s decision at the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal (VCAT) and the VCAT decision was then appealed at the Victoria Court of Appeal, a division of the Supreme Court.
Things got so bad that in March this year, Bendigo Council launched an anti-racist social media campaign, For a Better Bendigo.
Mr Fyffe said the court decision put an end to further appeal processes and the development should proceed.
“All avenues for appeal have now been exhausted and the mosque can be built,” Mr Fyffe said.
“People of all religions have the right to a place of worship and the vast majority of Greater Bendigo residents understand this.
“We are a welcoming and tolerant community but it is important to acknowledge this issue has been challenging for some. It is now time for the community to heal by putting aside its differences.
“We can do that by continuing to be respectful of anyone who has a different opinion to us, be that down the street, in the pub or in our workplaces. If we do that, then our reputation as a multicultural and inclusive community will continue to grow.”
Meanwhile, a Facebook group Stop the Mosque in Bendigo posted a flurry of negative comments claiming the city would become a no-go zone and be ‘taken over’ by sharia law while a rival Facebook group Believe in Bendigo posted messages of support for the new mosque.
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