Queensland Mosque Gets Local Support After Attack

Queensland Mosque Gets Local Support After Attack
(Tuesday, April 21, 2015) 11:51

CAIRO – In an outpour of public support, a large crowd attended Toowoomba international food festival hosted by the city's Muslim community to show solidarity with the religious minority after a fire damaged the local mosque last Friday.

"It pleases me to see so many people here and to see the harmony between Muslims and non-Muslims," Arabian Nights restaurateur Moyassar Al-Taie told The Chronicle on Monday, April 20.

"What happened two days ago (the mosque fire) doesn't represent what Toowoomba is." "The majority of Toowoomba people believe in multiculturalism," he added.

Al-Taie was among several Muslims who served food at the Toowoomba International Food Festival two days after an arson attack targeting the Garden City Mosque.

The mosque fire, which was the second this year, destroyed about 80% of the mosque. Defying the Islamophobic attack, Toowoomba's mayor assured residents that the annual food festival would be hosted by the Muslim community at the mosque. Muslim leaders said they were heartened by the outpouring of support and the attendance of a large crowd at Sunday's festival.

"It is good to see so many people here," Islamic Society of Toowoomba president Professor Shahjahan Khan said of the festival. Organized by the Garden City Mosque, the food festival was held at the University of Southern Queensland. Exotic foods from across the Middle East, the Pacific, Asia and Europe were featured during the festival. Meals including biryani, goat and lamb curries, pulao, satay, kebabs, tandoori and sweets such as baklava and Turkish delight, were offered by members of the Australian Muslim community.

Besides offering food from across the world, Sunday's food festival included a number of prominent guest speakers. Keynote speeches were given by Catholic Bishop Robert McGuckin, Anglican Bishop Cameron Vinables, Mayor Paul Antonio, and Jim Madden MP, representing Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk.

Dispelling Intolerance

In another gesture of support, a woman in a wheelchair showed up outside Garden City mosque.

Bringing some wood, nails and a hammer the woman came to voice her opposition to intolerance and vandalism.

"I thought of making a sign saying something like 'Mosques are churches too and they are important to people', but then I thought they don't need words, they need building materials," Liz said.

"I just wanted to say 'here's some wood, rebuild'.

"Hopefully, other people will now help out too (with building materials)," she added.

The woman's gesture reflects the outpouring of support from the wider Toowoomba community.

"I have received 400 to 500 emails and 200 to 300 phone calls of support," Professor Khan said. "That shows the sort of sympathy for us against someone who wants to destroy a place of worship.

The professor emphasised, "One person's actions don't reflect on the other people of the city."

Last December, the Islamic Society of central Queensland welcomed people of all beliefs and faiths to dispel some of the myths surrounding Islam and to promote understanding and tolerance.

More recently, Mackay Mosque, in north Queensland, held an open day in March. Opening doors to the community, officers and their families were invited to tour the mosque where they met members of the local Muslim community.

During the event, a leading Muslim figure from Mackay city on the eastern coast of Queensland, urged members of the religious minority to reach out to the interfaith community, seeing interaction as the best method to erase misconceptions.

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