Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Islamic schools deserve fair go: Pell

May 28, 2008

CATHOLIC Cardinal George Pell has weighed in to the row over an Islamic school in western Sydney, saying he has no objection to Muslim schools.

Camden Council last night voted unanimously against a proposal to build an Islamic school for 1200 students, citing various issues including traffic problems.

The decision would taint Australia's multicultural image, the Islamic Council of NSW warned today.
Speaking at a World Youth Day media conference, the Archbishop of Sydney said Muslims deserved a fair go.

Cardinal Pell told media he always encouraged people to be open to the rights of people from all faiths.

“Everybody in Australia has the right to a fair go, so do the Muslims,” he said. “We certainly believe in religious schools.”

A Muslim youth worker told reporters the Camden Council decision, condemned as racist by one Islamic group, would not give a bad impression of Sydney to pilgrims visiting for World Youth Day.

Mazem Bakhour, a representative from the Lebanese Muslim Association, said the school issue should not cause a problem for the Catholic youth event.

“I guess, at the end of the day, to the Muslim community, World Youth Day is about unity between religions,” he said.

“That's what we are going to focus on ... mainly just trying to focus on seeing the similarities between faiths.”

Pope Benedict XVI will meet the Australian leaders of other faiths during World Youth Day.

Camden residents had been unfairly portrayed as “rednecks” over the rejection of the Islamic school, the NSW Opposition said.

Liberal leader Barry O'Farrell said he did not believe race was an issue in the decision.

“Whenever these issues are determined, they should be determined and decided on the basis of facts, not emotion, on the basis of planning considerations, not irrelevant issues,” Mr O'Farrell told reporters today.

“I regret that, at times, media coverage of the issue focused more on issues irrelevant to the planning considerations.

“The point here is we've seen an attempt to portray Camden and that region as rednecks. I agree with the mayor, I think that's an unfortunate perception.”

Islamic Council of NSW president Ali Roude said the rejection was not a surprise.

“We have seen a history of reaction from local residents against the establishment of places of worship and schools so it was not a surprise,” he told ABC Radio.

“It does not help the image of Australia because we take pride as Australians as a country that's succeeded and (has) set an example to the whole world that we can live together.”

The schools' backers - the Qu'uranic Society - have not ruled out making an appeal to the Land and Environment Court.

Source:The Australian

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