CAIRO - An umbrella Muslim body has lamented the hysteric public opposition to the building of mosques in Australia, calling for concerted efforts to promote a better understanding of Islam.
"People are clearly fearful of Muslims and Islam, Nazeem Hussain, a board member of the Islamic Council of Victoria, told Herald Sun on Tuesday, January 29.
And it's easy to create that fear and hysteria in some ways.
Australian Muslims have been facing a growing public opposition to building worship places to fulfil their religious rituals.
Earlier this month, a church has sparked a row after terming mosques as breeding ground for fanatics.
Hussain said the anti-mosque opposition reflects a deep-seated Islamophobia in Australian society.
"It speaks to an underlying level of Islamophobia in society and a fear of Muslims moving into neighborhoods and disrupting locals," he said.
The building of mosques has been facing growing public opposition in several Western countries.
In the United States, at least 35 mosque projects have found foes, who battle to stop them from seeing light citing different pretexts, including traffic concerns and fear of terrorism.
Building mosques was also meeting opposition in several European countries as France, Italy and Spain.
In Switzerland, Swiss voters supported a referendum to ban the building of mosque minarets in the country.
The Monash Uniting Church Congregation on Tuesday apologized for accusations that mosques are a breeding ground for fanatics.
"It goes against the Uniting Church's strong desire to interact with all faiths in a respectful manner,'' Synod general secretary the Rev Dr Mark Lawrence.
"Multicultural relations often entail very complex histories and interpretations, and there are those in Monash Uniting Church who have experienced oppression and persecution in their countries of birth.
Church Congregation chairman Richard Farrell had objected to plans to expand a mosque in the area, saying it would disturb residents with the call for prayers and would turn a breeding ground for fanatics.
"While these people have understandably brought their concerns to Australia, this does not justify the position taken by the chairperson's statement,'' said Lawrence.
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.