Larger Ballarat mosque 'would have caused more protest'

BALLARAT'S mosque would have been subject to more protest had the building been on the same scale as the Bendigo mosque proposal, according to an Islamic community leader.

Islamic Society of Ballarat secretary Ihsan ul Huq Bajwa said the Bendigo mosque had received significant hype partially due to the size of the proposed building. 

“Because the building is a very big plan, it is getting more attention,” Mr Bajwa said.

However, Mr Bajwa commended Ballarat’s acceptance of the Islamic community following a barbeque held at the Ballarat mosque earlier this month. 

“Australia is a place where everyone can express their view. Ballarat is very open minded and welcoming to the Muslim group and the mosque,” he said.

The local Islamic Society had been overwhelmed with support from Ballarat when Queensland-based anti-Islamic group Restore Australia attempted to protest the development of the mosque, he said. 

Mr Bajwa travelled to Australia from Pakistan in 2009 on a skilled immigration visa. 

He has since obtained Australian citizenship. 

The Islamic Society of Ballarat estimates 65 Muslim families live in Ballarat, while an additional 150 Muslims are students at Federation University. 

Ballarat Interfaith Network spokesperson Margaret Ellis echoed the view of Mr Bajwa that the regional mosques were under different circumstances.

“The two situations are different. The Bendigo mosque is a very elaborate building and very expensive,” Ms Ellis said.

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