Of course it is prejudice fuelling the opposition to Newcastle Muslim Association's proposal to build a big mosque in the Newcastle suburb of Elermore Vale. The most commonly cited objection is traffic generated by the mosque, but that's not fooling anyone and I don't think it is meant to. The problem is that a great many people believe that expressing their real fears or the fears themselves are not acceptable.
One dominant fear seems to be that a big new mosque and associated facilities will see Elermore Vale become Newcastle's Lakemba, and there are not many people in Elermore Vale or the surrounding suburbs who would be pleased if that fear were realised. I imagine that the prospect of living as a westerner in Lakemba could be disconcerting. Another fear seems to be that the moderate Muslims of the Newcastle Muslim Association might not always be in control of the mosque. It is true that the mosque serves foreign students who are Muslims, and it is true that many of these students are from countries where Islam is severe and fundamental.
There is no reason why these fears should not be raised and discussed, and I am sure that the Newcastle Muslim Association would discuss them in the reasonable and rational way it has addressed objections to date. In the Newcastle Herald a week ago, for example, the association's spokeswoman, Diana Rah, was candid and reassuring in discussing the objections that were on the table and she touched on a few objections that are not on the table.
It may be that the history of the association's mosque in Metcalfe Street, Wallsend, will settle both the above fears. Wallsend, for example, has not become an exclusively or predominantly Muslim suburb in the many years it has hosted a mosque.
It will be unfortunate if the new mosque at Elermore Vale is built in the face of what appears now to be strong community opposition. To be fair to all, and particularly to Newcastle's practising Muslims, those opposing the mosque should be candid about their objections. They can be candid without being offensive.