CAIRO - Plans to build a halal housing project for Australian Muslims in western Sydney are luring mixed reactions among residents.
"To put that here is not in the community's best interests, Christine Stacy, 54, told Australia's The Telegraph on Wednesday, January 9.
It's going to create aggression.A developer has unveiled plans to build a housing project for Muslims in the north-western suburb of Riverstone.
The developer, Qartaba Homes, says the interest-free project will be Australia's very first project of its kind for the Muslim community.
But opponents say the project could turn into a Muslim enclave in Australia and raise tension between Muslims and non-Muslims.
I hardly think the advertisement for a 100 percent halal Muslim housing community is inclusive, Blacktown councilor Alan Pendleton said.
It's very divisive and I'm sure it will be viewed that way by the majority of fair-minded Australians.
"There's great concern about ... what they consider could be an enclave. (There's a belief) you have to be a Muslim, otherwise they won't sell you a site.
State MP for Hawkesbury Ray Williams was also critical.
"I can only imagine the repercussions if a developer were to advertise a new Judeo-Christian housing estate; they would be hung, drawn and quartered," he said.
Resident Jeanette Mowbray said she feared the development would lead to Muslims "taking over" the area.
A business owner in the area said though she welcomes the community expansion, she did not believe "that their community wants to be part of our community".
But other residents welcomed the idea of building a Muslim housing project in the area.
"I think it's good," bakery owner Tung Do said, expecting the project would bring more business into the area.
We'll have more beautiful people for the village.
University of Technology Sydney sociology professor Andrew Jakubowicz also backed the idea.
"The phenomenon of creating an environment where people of a particular religious faith feel comfortable is a very old Christian tradition, associated particularly with the Anglican church, he said.
"The Jewish community also has taken steps to draw a line around neighborhoods, not to keep others out but to make it safe for Jews."
The developer also defended the project, saying it was open to all Australians of faiths and backgrounds.
"We're not doing this as an Islamic organization, we're doing it as business people and we'd like to keep it like that," Qartaba director Wajahat Rana said.
We want all religions to be living together in Australia, side-by-side. We don't want division."
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.