27 May 2008

Multi-Cultural Australia?

It is being reported that the Camden Council has rejected a development proposal submitted by the Qu'uranic Society (the spelling is how it is the story -- but I would have thought Quranic or Qur'anic -- that's just me though) to build a 1200-student Islamic School on land it bought in the Camden area. Camden is located south-west of Sydney.

The Mayor, Chris Patterson, issued a statement immediately after the vote was taken saying that the decision was one based solely on issues of traffic management and the loss of agricultural land but most definitely not on religious grounds. Although I have not read the planning reports, and the planning reports recommended that the Council reject the proposal, it does sound all a little convenient.

The Council received some 3000 submissions on the proposal and only 50 were for the development. So, even if the planning recommendation was to permit the development the Council would have been between a rock and a hard place with almost 3000 residents rejecting the proposal. Some suggest that the community was divided over the application. However, the breakdown above would suggest that any suggestion of community division is a bit of a furphy. If the community was truly divided on the proposal then those community members that were for the development did not make their support all that well known.

The interest in the vote saw some 200 Camden residents attend the meeting and apparently a loud cheer erupted when the Council confirmed that it had rejected the proposal. Community feeling was definitely not running with the Qu'uranic Society on this school development.

Anti-proposal rallies attracted up to a 1000 people! This culminated in some one deciding to impale a couple of pig's heads on spikes and string an Australian flag up between the heads. This to me sounds very un-Australian for a land that prides itself on tolerance and acceptance of difference. The spiking of the pig heads also does not seem to have any relevance with the land and traffic issues identified by other stake holders, the intent was to offend and to stake claim to the land as Australian land.

The Qu'uranic Society can appeal the decision to the Land and Environment Court. However, this would require the court to not only overturn the decision but to go against the reports submitted by the Department of Primary Industries, the Roads and Traffic Authority, and the NSW Police who all rejected the proposed development.

A more likely scenario after spending AUD 1.5 million on acquiring the land and a further AUD 250,000 on the proposal is that the Qu'uranic Society will sell up and seek land in a more favourable Council area where there are unlikely to be primary industry or traffic concerns.

I wonder home multi-cultural is Australia really? Is this just an isolated incident or is it endemic of a much wider-spread of fear and loathing to that which we might not understand or that we fear?

The residents of Camden have spoken!

No comments: