Mosque row reflects badly on Bendigo
I WAS embarrassed and ashamed to call Bendigo home as news of racist and uninformed “debate” over the planning application for a mosque at Wednesday night’s council meeting went viral nationally. This story does nothing for Bendigo’s reputation as a growing, multicultural city; rather, it reinforces the stereotype of “Bendigo bogans”; small minds from a small town. Bendigo has a proud and long multicultural heritage. We celebrate our Chinese history with the museum and our dragons at the Easter parade. We have the Atisha Centre in Lyttleton Terrace and its connections to the Buddhist Stupa just outside town. There is a wide array of Christian places to worship, from the Roman Catholic Sacred Heart Cathedral to the Greek Orthodox Church, with everything in between. As Australians, we value diversity and freedom of religion. Building a mosque is a logical extension of this, to allow our Muslim brothers and sisters also to have a place of worship. Rather than giving people’s unfounded fears about jihadism and terrorism a voice, the answer is education and experience. A mosque in our community can only enrich our lives. I have lived in England, where there are many mosques. As a young teacher, I took students on excursions in Birmingham and Oxford to learn about Muslim practices and beliefs. Contrary to popular belief (fed by the media), Islam is a religion of peace, learning and faithful practice – just like its fellow monotheistic, Abrahamic religions, Christianity and Judaism. I applaud the courage of those councillors who voted for the mosque to be built. It cannot have been easy in the face of that angry mob last night, and the council’s "yes" vote is the redeeming factor in this story. I just hope that now Bendigo’s teachers, preachers and silent majority can find their voices to drown out the bigotry that has been so sadly and embarrassingly displayed in the press.
Approval should not have been in doubt
I AM saddened that I actually thought "well done Bendigo council" when I read about the planning permission approval for a mosque to be built in Bendigo. What made me sad was the fact that this approval could ever be in doubt! It is simply a building, like any other building, and so long as it complies with the necessary building requirements, its approval should be a non-issue. I suspect that for many of us who live in Bendigo, that because this should be a non-issue, there was no impetus to feel the need to make a declaration of support for a mosque. What is truly appalling is the protests against the mosque being built. Many of the reported comments from the protesters show that they are fearful of a religion they do not understand. Unfortunately ignorance breeds fear, so perhaps they need to put in the effort to better understand the beliefs of a religion rather than accept an extremist stereotype view. Yet, more importantly, we need to realise that the people and the religion they fear already live in Bendigo and practise their faith. Nothing bad has happened; their fear is irrational. The mosque is simply a building that will allow community members to meet and practice their religious beliefs in a more comfortable venue. If the building was a new scout hall or community centre, would we see the same level of protest? I sincerely doubt it.
Ambulance station no good without staff
I WOULD like to thank the lovely ambos who attended to me on Wednesday at Huntly. They were fantastic. When I asked if they came from our Epsom station, he said no, Eaglehawk and,that the station in Epsom was a holding station, not manned. Another political vote-buying exercise by Labor. They build things and don't put the staff in. We need ambulances in the Epsom/Huntly area - the population is booming. It's time to look after the real issues. Put the staff in our essential services.
If only the majority would speak up
THE letter in yesterday's Bendigo Advertiser titled "It's time our voices heard" by Wayne Bramley puts forward such a sensible, straightforward plan. If only we could get the majority on board and vote for the things that really matter for our country.
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