Ugly scenes no way to stop a mosque on Sunshine Coast
THOSE fighting an Islamic mosque in the heart of Maroochydore will have to get a lot smarter than the redneck bigotry displayed on the weekend if they are to win the public and council over.
The scenes on the weekend - albeit by a tiny minority of protesters - were appalling.
Shouting down another person's religion or way of life - to defend your own - never looks good.
Towering over a woman while yelling to her about the treatment of women under Islam is nothing short of appalling.
Many of those from churches on the Coast must have been embarrassed to be associated with such intolerance.
As a Christian, I certainly was. It hardly fits the description of 'what would Jesus do'.
At the end of the hour-long protest, I felt more sympathy for the pro-mosque supporters - who showed more New Testament love - than those supposedly representing the 'Christian' way of life.
But let's not be confused.
There are those who have nothing to do with churches who are using this mosque issue as a way to further their 'we are Australians go back to where you came from' agenda.'
They believe that multiculturalism has been a failure and now threatens the public safety of Australians.
As a Christian, I hear often of the genuine concern people in churches have about the Islamic religion gaining a foothold on the Coast.
Some people in churches genuinely believe that once a mosque is established, the Islamic community will use it as a base to bring their way of life into an area, as they have done in other countries.
The advance of the Islamic State overseas, which included some appalling cases of religious persecution of Christians has fuelled that fear, as have the anti-terror raids in Sydney and Brisbane.
But those trying to stop a mosque on religious grounds will fail because of one simple fact - we have freedom of religion in Australia - and it is the right of everyone to live by their own beliefs.
So how will a mosque be stopped on the Coast?
Whether or not a mosque is approved or not in Maroochydore will come down to the local council.
Interestingly, I couldn't see one councillor or MP at Saturday's protest.
The Sunshine Coast Council will have to base its decision entirely on town planning grounds, and of course, public submissions.
Those opposing the mosque would be far smarter to come up with genuine grounds for objection including:
- A mosque building would not fit in with the 'character' of the existing buildings
- Another church would create carparking and traffic problems in an area already devoid of parking
- It is the wrong location
- It could create noise or disturbance issues for neighbouring buildings.
Opposing a mosque based on religious grounds alone is doomed to fail.
Why we have had to shut down debates on this issue
THE Sunshine Coast mosque debate has created some of the most passionate - and inflammatory comments we have seen on our websites.
At times, our moderators have had to reject many more comments than normal because of the way some have chosen to vilify those with a differing belief.
Under Australian law, it is an offence for us, as publishers, to allow comments that demonise people based on their race, religion or sexuality.
While people can raise general concerns about what has been happening overseas with the Islamic State, they should be careful not to tar everyone with the same brush.
In the most simplistic terms, just as not all Catholic priests are paedophiles, not all Muslims want to cut off people's heads.
If people try to keep their comments to the general issue at hand, without being inflammatory or abusive, they are more likely to be approved and the debate remain open.
If people use our forums or Facebook pages to pour out their bile, we will have no choice but to close debates and remove Facebook posts.
Freedom of expression on our sites does not include the right to abuse people.
Mark Furler is the Group Digital Editor for APN Australian Regional Media and former Sunshine Coast Daily Editor in Chief