“We are not aliens. We are human beings who just want to live, work and be accepted by the community.”
This is the plea from the Muslim community of Brisbane, a simple request to be treated with respect as they go about their daily lives. Unfortunately, it’s a request that’s being viciously ignored by some residents who have taken it upon themselves to bombard Brisbane’s Muslim community with messages of hate and distrust.
This plea, spoken by Islamic Council of Queensland president Mohammed Yusuf, is on behalf of a community who just want to be left in peace to live and work in the country they call home.
The Islamic Council of Queensland (ICQ) was formed in 1969 as the umbrella body to represent the interests of Muslims in Queensland. At present it represents 10 cities stretching from Cairns in the far north to Brisbane and the Gold Coast in the south sast.
Recently, a Rocklea home being used as a place of worship by Indonesian Muslims was vandalised when the words “die” and “Muslims are evil and have no respect for our ways” were spray-painted on the building. It was the second Muslim prayer site in Queensland to be defaced in recent days after a mosque in far north Queensland was vandalised just days before. Tensions have also been running high following a number of counter-terrorism raids which occurred south of Brisbane and in Sydney in recent weeks.
According to Mr Yusuf, the hype surrounding these events has left Brisbane’s Muslim community unable to feel safe going about their everyday lives, and he needs it to stop.
“There is a lot of concern and a lot of hype surrounding these events happening at the moment due to the media and politicians,” he says. “Troops being deployed overseas and the discussion around tougher anti-terrorism laws have caused some concern and unrest. The raids in Sydney and Brisbane all had a great deal of impact.
“Women in our community have been victimised and mosques have been vandalised. People have received hate mail and threatening phone calls. We report these things to the police but unless there is direct action taken then we do not feel reassured.
“The Muslim community of Brisbane should not be held accountable for events that are taking place overseas. The Muslim community is like any other, if someone does something wrong or breaks the law they are doing that as a human being, not because they are Muslim.
“But when an incident does occur the media does not distinguish this, they just label the person a Muslim and then that is all people can see. We support the law and if someone breaks the law we support the action that needs to be taken.”
This is not a new battle. The Muslim community have been facing a world of prejudice and distrust for years now and unfortunately there seems to be no end in sight.
“This is not a new situation for us, we have been fighting this fight for many years now,” Mr Yusuf said. “We came here to be part of this country, we are law abiding citizens.
“There comes a time when we start to think ‘what more can we do?’. We try to engage with the community. We invite people to learn about our religion, to see what we do and to talk to us. This is not a new religion and Muslim people have been in Australia for more than 200 years.
“The unknown breeds fear, people question us because they may not understand us. They start to question, ‘what are they teaching?’ ‘What are they saying’?”
In order to combat this fear of the unknown, Queensland’s Islamic community will soon announce an annual Queensland Mosque Day from 2015, to encourage people to learn about the Muslim faith. Mosques in Logan and Holland Park have also recently held open days in a bid to quell fears surrounding their religion.
Member for Greenslopes Ian Kaye has lived near the Holland Park mosque for most of his life and says it has always been a very welcoming place.
“I have attended an open day there and there was a very good turn-out of people,” he says. “They were very welcoming and happy to talk, no questions were off the table.
“We cannot let the actions of a few people dictate the way we treat an entire community and I think the media has a big role to play here when it comes to the way stories are reported. These open days are very informative and I would encourage people to go along.”
A full open day will be held at the Logan City Mosque, located at Third Avenue and Cutis Street Marsden, on Saturday 25 October. In the coming months, more open days will also held at the Holland Park mosque, which is located at 309 Nursery Road, Holland Park.
Have you witnessed or experienced discrimination in your community? Would you attend an open day at a mosque? Let us know below!