FOR the second time in almost as many months, Muslims will face a fight to worship in Melbourne's south-east — this time in Monash.
As the battle rages in nearby Doveton over the construction of a mosque next to an evangelical church, local Muslims face the prospect of having to stay in what they say is an overcrowded prayer room after the Monash Uniting church questioned their motives for a new mosque in Clayton.
Monash University has already given the green light to the Islamic Association of Monash Mosque to build a mosque at 16 Beddoe Avenue in Clayton North. The property, owned by Monash University, is used as a Muslim prayer room by students. A planning application has been lodged with Monash Council.
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But in October last year, Monash Uniting Church chairman Richard Farrell objected on behalf of local churchgoers to the construction of a mosque, saying there were fears it would become a breeding ground for Islamic extremists. "A mosque is a training ground for religious moderates at one end of the scale and religious fanatics at the other end," he stated in a letter to Monash Council. "Such opinions in extreme cases can promote "jihad" and the destruction of the "infidel" right up to teaching about assassination and bombing of Christian and other establishments.
He also raised concerns about unacceptable noise levels due to five times daily calls to prayer and a lack of car parking in the area.
But the plans indicate that the mosque, to accommodate up to 185 people, will have its main entry via the university. Car parking would be provided on the university grounds.
Sheikh Muhammed Musaher Khalissi, imam of the Islamic Association of Monash Mosque, said that his congregants were normal people who only wanted a place to pray. The call to prayer would occur inside the mosque and not broadcast.
"We don't have any bad behaviour or any extremist view," he said. "The Koran's point of view is that we have to respect other religions. We haven't said anything against any religion."
About 40 people regularly worship at the prayer room every week, but about 400 Monash students and staff members congregate for Friday prayers. Due to the number of worshippers, Monash University has provided the group with a basketball hall.
Mark Lawrence, the general secretary of the Victoria-Tasmania synod of the Uniting Church, said Mr Farrell's comments were extremely unfortunate and should not be interpreted as the position of the church.
The City of Monash will decide on the application at next week's council meeting.