WHYALLA, South Australia - Praying outside in stifling temperatures above 40C, the Muslim community in South Australia's most populous city of Whyalla are scared to revisit their mosque which was damaged in arson attack last week.
"People from Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane come here to live ... and now they're scared," the president of the Whyalla Islamic Society, Bill Brikic, told ABC news on Wednesday, January 23.
But [the] police told them don't be scared because Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane is worse, he added noting that the fire has left some of the congregation too scared to return to the mosque.
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Starting about 4am last Thursday, the fire caused smoke damage inside the Morris Crescent mosque after fires were lit at the front and back door of the property.
The damage was estimated at between $15,000 and $20,000.
"The front and the back doors have been burnt totally," Hasan Aziz, a spokesman for the community, told News.com.au.
Muslims, who have been in Australia for more than 200 years, make up 1.7 percent of its 20-million population. Islam is the country's second largest religion after Christianity.
In post 9/11 Australia, Muslims have been haunted with suspicion and have had their patriotism questioned.
A 2007 poll taken by the Issues Deliberation Australia (IDA) think-tank found that Australians basically see Islam as a threat to the Australian way of life.
A recent governmental report revealed that Muslims are facing deep-seated Islamophobia and race-based treatment like never before.
With police treating the fire treated as suspicious, leaders of the Muslim community believe the attack was a "hate crime".
"They put petrol on both of them and they lit it on fire," Aziz, a spokesman for the Muslim community, said.
"The way it's been carried out tells us that it's a targeted crime, a hate crime," he said.
"In a town like Whyalla, of all the places, it's very unlikely for such an act to be carried out.
Aziz said that the community, which meets twice a day at the mosque, has been forced to pray outside in searing temperatures.
"It's pretty bad," he said.
We can't carry out any of the prayers, so we've had to do it outside.
Saddened by the attack, Brikic the president of the Whyalla Islamic Society, called on those responsible to hand themselves into police.
"We wish that bloke, what he done, apologize for that ... and ...[hand] himself ... [into] the police," he said.
Reproduced with permission from OnIslam.net