WELCOME THEM: Father Joe Duffy says Catholics should show Muslims they are welcome next to his church.
WELCOME THEM: Father Joe Duffy says Catholics should show Muslims they are welcome next to his church. MADAREE TOHLALA

Coast mosque forum cancelled due to safety concerns

IT was just supposed to make the Sunshine Coast a better place but an open forum between both sides of the Maroochydore mosque debate had to be cancelled because of safety concerns.

Organiser Pam Danson hoped the meeting at Nambour Community Centre would lead to greater dialogue between people on either side of the mosque debate.

"I wanted to get people face to face so they could speak their piece, hear from the other side and learn something about each other," she said. "It's polarised at the moment. We run that risk of not seeing each other's humanity."

The idea was to avoid the ugly scenes from last September when about 500 people turned up at an anti-mosque protest outside the proposed site in Maroochydore.

At that protest, a crowd carrying anti-Islam signs and chanting "no mosque here" was met by counter protestors offering "free hugs" and opposing "bigotry".

"We need to remember the humanity on the other sides," she said.

"Both sides have some very valid, legitimate points."

Ms Danson had arranged speakers from both sides to discuss their views and have an interactive discussion.

The response from the community was encouraging, with 70 people registering and another 40 wanting spots.

She had invited Anti-Discrimination Commission Queensland deputy commissioner Neroli Holmes, Griffith University's Islamic Research Unit founding director Associate Professor Mohamed Abdullah, Restore Australia chief executive Mike Holt and One Nation Queensland state director Ian Nelson.

"It's disappointing for everybody concerned," Ms Danson said. "There were people who wanted to have a say and who wanted to be heard."

Ms Danson hopes the forum goes ahead in the future, especially following events here and overseas.



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