Rockhampton's open mosque day in Australia: Dispelling the fear

Rockhampton's open mosque day in Australia: Dispelling the fear
(Monday, May 18, 2015) 10:46

"I think it's easy for us all to get caught up in fear and the idea that a particular religion is associated with terror but I think every religion has its positives and its negatives," said Rockhampton resident Celeste Sherwood.

 Ms Sherwood was one of dozens of people who gathered at the Rockhampton Mosque on the weekend as part of the Islamic Community of Central Queensland's (ICCQ) open day.


Locals were treated to a feast of traditional cuisine at the Rockhampton Mosque open day








Breaking down prejudice


Brisbane-based Imam Mirza Akbar attended the day as part of a panel in a Q and A session about the Islamic faith. He says people of non-Islamic faith are often surprised by how much they have in common with Muslims. "The way that we want to live is exactly the way you want to as well, so at the end of the day they find that there's not much difference between a Muslim and a true blue Aussie," he said.

"It puts them at ease and eliminates all that fear that they had." ICCQ secretary Binil Kattiparambil says there are about 700 Muslims living in the region.

"In Rockhampton we haven't had any issues, there has been no physical threats or attacks on anyone, so that's actually quite a good sign," he said.

"It shows us that the people of Rockhampton and central Queensland are welcoming and tolerant." ICCQ president Riaz Ahmed says members of the public are often intrigued by the local mosque. "What we're trying to achieve through this open day is to say we're just your colleagues that you work with daily, just going on with our religious beliefs inside the mosque, that's all mosque is about," he said.


Police presence


Queensland Police Assistant Commissioner Mike Condon was on the Q and A panel to answer questions relating to the law.

He says it is important for police to work with a variety of community groups. "I think in general terms the Rockhampton community has embraced the Islamic community," he said.

"A lot of these people here are qualified practitioners working in the community, doctors, dentists, engineers, everyday they are servicing the general community of Rockhampton and today they're opening their mosque for the community to engage with them." Assistant Commissioner Condon says local policewomen have reached out to women in the Islamic community to ease their fears.

"Our police women have come down here today to interact with them and just to give them some confidence," he said. He says there have been a couple of reports of people taking photographs of Islamic women on their mobile phones in the region.

"Those people are doing that to try and intimidate... obviously it's not an offence but we're mindful that they are concerned about it and we just want to allay their fears," he said.


Surprising finds


Attendees were given the opportunity to ask questions of the Islamic community, and Ms Sherwood says she was surprised by the answers.

She says her daughter helped her put into context why women pray at the back of the building, after speaking to one of the members of the mosque.

"My daughter actually said 'think of a yoga class mum with the men behind the women and perhaps it's not the best view to have the women at the front and leaning forward when they're praying'," she said.

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