In a scathing attack on the council yesterday, Australian Islamic College Thornlie campus imam Burhaan Mehtar (pictured) said the 5-4 vote on Tuesday night to again refuse continuing community use of an assembly hall as a mosque was disappointing.
Imam Mehtar said in the almost two-year battle in the State Administrative Tribunal the college had “bent more than backwards” by agreeing to onerous conditions he claimed were not imposed on any other religious group.
This included demolishing a $300,000 house to build a 95-bay carpark for up to 170 visiting worshippers. Another 121 school students and staff would be permitted to worship. It also agreed to halve the number of visiting worshippers to 85 after a mosque was built in Southern river in about two years.
The college would also have to employ at least three traffic wardens for Friday prayers and give quarterly attendance figures to the council.
“It’s more than frustrating, it’s disappointing,” Imam Mehtar said.
He said the row had so far cost the college $120,000.
“Being Australian citizens in a multicultural society, especially in the shire of Gosnells, which is very much a cosmopolitan area, we have fulfilled more than adequate requirements,” Iman Mehtar said.
“Yet we are still not winning. In one way, it is discriminatory because other churches do not have (the same level of conditions).” He said there was no prayer hall in an area with a growing Muslim population and likened use of the school hall to other faith-based schools using their halls for assemblies.
City of Gosnells planners had recommended approving the college plans on Tuesday night.
“Unfortunately now the community has felt it has become a purely racial issue from the council because there is no planning or environmental obstruction at all,” Imam Mehtar said.
However, Gosnells mayor Dave Griffiths said councillors who opposed the proposal cited ratepayers’ concerns about parking and loss of amenity.
“The proposal raises a significant number of town planning concerns and these were the only basis for council’s deliberations,” he said.
“Council has a statutory responsibility to consider all applications and will base all assessments on town planning grounds.”
Imam Mehtar said the matter would now return to the tribunal for a full hearing.