'We just want a place to go that's ours'

FULL COVERAGE: Bendigo mosque: Emotion fuels debate

MUSLIM community member Heri Febriyanto last night hugged supporters that attended a peace ceremony in Bendigo. 

The "silent minority" of Bendigo members who support the mosque - and multiculturalism in the region - yesterday united in their pledge to promote diversity. 

It was a welcome sight for the the Bendigo Islamic Association spokesman. 

He said despite the hatred and opposition, all the Muslim community were asking for was a place to call their own.

There are just over 200 Muslims in Bendigo who congregate for worship in rooms at La Trobe University.

"We just want a place to go that's ours," he said. 

"We are building a sport hall and a community centre too, so this is for everyone."

He said a call to prayer, which many people had opposed, had not been included in the mosque application.

The height of the minaret has also been reduced. 

Fellow Muslim and Mosque applicant Munshi Nawaz says they are relieved the mosque had been approved. 

He said the decision was expected to face a legal challenge from protesters but reiterated the anti-Islamic group did not represent the whole of Bendigo. 

Mr Nawaz said the Islamic community had tried to distance themselves from the often faceless protests. 

"The response I have had from the community is so nice and understanding," he said. 

"The people who are opposed to the mosque are a very minor section ... and don't represent the views of most Bendigo people."

He said racism often came down to overall misconceptions, of which "this was an example". 

"We believe many of these anti-Islam protesters aren't even from Bendigo and many local members of the community have expressed dissatisfaction (about the situation)."

The group responsible for the black balloons has been contacted for comment.

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