Well, not quite, although some consider Canberra to be out in the wilderness.
A while back, I posted on a Mr. Gavin Boby, a town planning lawyer with a passion for mosquebusting. He offers his expertise pro bono to communities who find they have applications for mosques in their midst where there was not one before, nor was there any perceived need for one.
This is a challenging situation for the regular person on the street, because to say, ‘oh, I don’t think I want a mosque down the road’ is generally met with cries of ‘RACIST’ and the usual bleats about intolerance and cultural equivalence.(nb. pointing out that there are no churches in Mecca, and the Christians are being chased out of Iraq is usually ignored or considered racist.)
Gavin has had, as they say over in Britain, a cracking run on what’s become known as mosquebusting.
The problems involved with such a development are all real, and nothing to do with race. Practicalities such as parking, land values, noise pollution (when the call to prayer starts at 4.30am you’re going to have problems with sleeping, for example), infrastructure involved with such developments and greater foot traffic in the area.
We have seen this in Australia with the Camden mosque/islamic school proposal, where an application was placed to build an islamic school with all the islamic amenities to go with it in a semi-rural setting populated by mainly white Aussies.
It was neither required nor wanted by the locals, and after some wrangling with the council, the application was ultimately refused.
The organisation wanting to build in a suburb with no sizeable population of congregationists moved their development to an area with a larger number of muslims.
Personally, I don’t see this as a bad thing. For example, why on earth would I apply to build a church in Lakemba? Apart from the fact that I’d get the living tar beaten out of me for my chutzpah, there is no demand for it. That I know of, at least. Lakemba these days is considered an islamic enclave, so christians would be more likely to move out of the area.
So we have applications for areas that have neither the wish for nor target population of islamic centres (which often double as mosques).
In Britain, Gavin’s been advising communities on how to address their local councils. How to approach them, what issues they need to consider and strategies that could be applied.
He has spoken in Perth, Adelaide and Melbourne, and is currently on his way to Canberra, just in time to have a chat with the locals about the proposed Gunghalin mosque* up there before to Sydney and further north to Queensland.
While here he’s also been sharing the stage with other speakers, so there’s been a lot of good information coming from these meetings.
In Perth, he teamed up with Sergio Redegalli, our favourite glass artist turned anti-burka crusader, and the lovely Kiralee from Halal Choices. In Adelaide, he shared the limelight with Dr. Mark Durie, one of Australia’s own world-reknowned islamic scholars.
I’ve yet to get a lot of specific feedback from the Perth and Adelaide meetings, but I did get this from Perth:
Our public gathering on Sunday night had a great line up of speakers. Each had chosen a path to stand up to islamic supremacy and all had achieved by their persistence and depth of knowledge in their chosen battle. It was inspirational to be able to stand around and chat with them. They were a contrast of styles:
Gavin – very approachable and his delivery, whilst definitely having the aura of the court room was logical and very informative
Kiralee – warm, friendly and truly passionate about her subject. I really enjoyed her presentation, she had everyone laughing
Sergio – he had us laughing too and it was a real eye opener to hear about the battles he fights on a daily basis. He’s a real Aussie
I was lucky enough to attend his talk the night before last in town and found it an excellent evening. Also speaking were Dr. Bernie Power, from the Melbourne School of Theology and a gentleman from the local Jewish community who spoke of his feelings regarding out current laws and regulations, and the irony of living in a free country such as Australia and being unable to attend the synagogue on High Holy Days without a security pass and getting by armed guards.
Like Mark Steyn, Gavin believes you should enjoy your work, and in his case, since he likes winning, he thoroughly enjoys his.
13 planning applications declined out of 14 is a pretty good scorecard, so I can see why he would.
He had the audience laughing out loud at times, and his attitude towards being called a racist (I don’t care what you call me, I’m not interested in that. I’m interested in winning this case and that’s what’s important) is refreshing compared to so many people who whisper behind closed doors or look over their shoulders before speaking out loud. I’ve been known to do the same thing at times, and I hate it, but this is also Melbournistan, home of some of the most stringent blasphemy laws in the Western World.
He shared his views on how it is possible to beat planning applications – get in early. A lot of people don’t pay attention to proposed developments in their own neighbourhood, so it’s often a surprise to find out that a new detraction will be going up on a block down the road. Whether it’s a high-rise development, subdivision, mosque or some semi-commercial thing ultimately is irrelelvant. We often just don’t look around at what’s happening in our own community so miss the opportunity to call the council to task on inappropriate development.
So what to do? PAY ATTENTION!
You’re paying rates, so you should be looking at what your council is approving and considering if it’s something you want in your area. What are the zoning regulations, what is the proposed activity and what can it lead to?
In some places during islamic festivals, the streets will be taken over by men praying.
After you’ve been paying attention, and found out there’s something you don’t want happening in your neighbourhood, the educate yourself. Talk to your councillors, write letters – individual letters, not a form letter that anyone can sign without reading. If people write their own things then they’re PAYING ATTENTION, which means your council will have to pay attention also.
After all, how many people these days are prepared to take the time out and put pen to paper? If one person is moved to do that, then how many others will be thinking about it? It’s also a bit of a numbers game. In sales, for example, a satisfied customer will tell 3 other people. An unsatisfied customer will tell 20. The numbers for letter writing are pretty much the same, with snail mail carrying more weight than emails.
As for twitter? Meh.
Snail mail works. It tells people that you care enough to expend the energy and therefore your council should be paying attention to you.
Local councillors are political animals, like most people in positions of elected authority. Some are very good, others are seat warmers and you also have your power mongers who see local government as a steppingstone to greater things.
If your local pollies are upsetting a lot of the natives, they won’t be getting re-elected.
Also, if they listen to their constituents, the ratepayers, the voters, then they can also be shown the error of their ways.
Approving inappropriate developments, mosques/islamic-cultural-educational centres which act as mosques, is detrimental to property values and the right to quiet enjoyment of our homes. Things we’ve taken for granted for years, but can’t any longer.
So an informative, enjoyable time had by all on a timely topic, and my recommendation to anyone who hasn’t been paying attention (there are those words again) is that you should check out Gavin while he’s in town, or follow his work. He’s an expert in his field, and we’re always being told to listen to the experts!
*while the council says that apparently it’s an excellent place for a mosque, I do know people in the area and that’s not their view. Which again points to people staying across what the council is up to.