Geoff Chambers/Gold Coast.comÂ H/T Zip
January 31st, 2009
MAYOR Ron Clarke has refused to back down over comments that Christians opposing a proposed Islamic school at Carrara are ‘bigots’ who have embarrassed the city.
In a Weekend Bulletin exclusive, the founding pastor of the nearby Dream Centre church, Rodney Gilchrist, has described a meeting with Cr Clarke, at which he was told that the school would proceed ‘no matter what’.
* That’s the spirit: a mayor who ridesÂ roughshodÂ over his constituents in order to make Australia Islamic. Very democratic, or is he?
* Related link:Â Protesters rally against Islamic school
The Dream Centre has sent a dossier to councillors, backed by a petition signed by 1700 residents, which outlines its opposition to the Islamic school at 19 Chisholm Road receiving approval at a city planning committee on Tuesday.
Hundreds of protesters are expected to turn out.
Mr Gilchrist said he was sick and tired of being branded a ‘racist and a bigot’ and has defended his opposition to the school, which would cater for 60 Muslim children.
“The Mayor fobbed us off. I’ve run the church for 20 years and have never had a reception like the one I received from him,” said Mr Gilchrist.
“He was fairly naive and insensitive to the fact that he is a duly-appointed representative of our community.
“We’re not bigots by any means. We are a multicultural church and we’re open to all faiths but the fact is on a social level, this is not the right location for the school.
“It does not make any sense from a social planning perspective to have a Muslim school, a church and a Croatian club all so close together.
“The Mayor told us to deal with it like Christians and that having the school there would teach us a lesson.”
Mr Gilchrist and his fellow pastors, who are linked to the Concerned Carrara Residents Group, have also made claims against alleged ‘ethnic’ bullying tactics.
They claim that graffiti discriminating against Croatians, Aborigines and Christians was sprayed on the boundary wall with the Islamic school site.
They have also made claims that ‘hoons of ethnic descent’ have been spotted doing ‘donuts’ in their car park.
Cr Clarke last night stood by his claims, which were printed in the Abu Dhabi-based newspaper The National, that discussion about the Islamic school had been ‘polluted by bigots’.
He goes on to say that the Christian protesters are a ‘great embarrassment to me’.
Cr Clarke said he was not referring to all Christians or Dream Centre followers but those who had stirred up trouble.
“There is no place for them in this city. I was referring to the people from the Dream Centre who organised the rally,” said Cr Clarke.
“I’m against keeping Arabs or Jews or Christians out of the city.”
Cr Clarke said he did not storm out of the meeting but admitted that he spoke to them in blunt terms.
“I spoke to them for some time, probably three-quarters of an hour,” said Cr Clarke.
“They were warned early on that we would make no allowances because the planning matters were in order.
“Allegations of terrorism were brought into the meeting and other claims like the junior pastor chap claiming that somebody walked in with a Koran and tried to convert him.
“They were bombastic.”
The Weekend Bulletin has managed to broker an emergency meeting between the two parties, with both sides willing to sit down and discuss their problems.
Cr Clarke has offered to host the meeting. “Dialogue is the best way to ensure that everybody is properly informed,” he said.
Islamic Friendship Association president Keysar Trad, a trustee of the planned school, said he was willing to sit down with Mr Gilchrist and the other pastors.
But Mr Trad said he was fed up with unfounded claims that so-called ‘ethnics’ were terrorising the Dream Centre.
“We have made three attempts to sit down and got nothing, but if a sit down can be organised I will fly up to attend and I know the Imam is keen as well,” he said.
“I’m concerned at how big of an opposition they’ve been mobilising for a school with only 60 children.
“They’ve made all types of accusations that are matters for the police and not matters to be discussed for a simple development application.”
Chairman of the Australian International Islamic College Imam Abdul Quddoos Al Azhari said he was confident the application would be adopted by councillors at next week’s meeting.
“I’m not authorised to speak to the media but I can tell you we’ve done everything in good regard towards the Dream Centre,” he said.
“We approached them through Bob La Castra on several occasions.
“We’ve gone through him because he is our local councillor.
“They have refused us on every occasion and it is silly to say we didn’t try. If they still want to meet, we will meet.”