FULL COVERAGE: Bendigo mosque: Emotion fuels debate
PLANS to build a $3 million mosque in Bendigo are expected to face a legal challenge, with the Stop the Bendigo Mosque group vowing to "plot its next moves" in the fight against the proposal.
The mosque was approved by City of Greater Bendigo councillors in a seven-two vote on Wednesday night, with several members of the public gallery screaming, "Shame on you, shame" when the decision was passed down.
More than 350 people - mostly vocal protesters - packed the meeting and shared fears that the mosque would create a Muslim “enclave” in Bendigo.
The anti-mosque group says it will take the matter to the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal, promising that "battle has just begun".
"The mood was not defeat (following the council decision) but of extreme buoyancy as residents broke off to go to the pub for a beer and plot next moves," the anonymous group said.
"There were plenty of suggestions as only country folk know how to niggle authorities."
There are just over 200 registered Muslims in Bendigo. For several years the region's Islamic community have been congregating for worship in rooms at La Trobe University.
Heri Febriyanto, a spokesman for the Bendigo Islamic Association, said he supported the right for residents to object to building plans but that it was important to counter ‘‘misleading information’’ about the mosque through deeper community engagement.
‘‘We are very humble. We are happy to listen and we want to live in harmony in Bendigo. We are just all the same. We just need a place of worship for us," he said.