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Tuesday, 16 September 2008
Page: 57

Senator MOORE (6:57 PM) —Last month, many people in Brisbane gathered together in the suburb of Holland Park in south Brisbane to celebrate with the local Muslim community the amazing achievement of the centenary of the Holland Park Mosque in Queensland. This conjures up so much excitement when you think of the history that surrounds this building in the southern part of Brisbane. It is a great achievement because, as the local mufti, Imam Uzair Akbar—

Honourable senators interjecting—

The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Marshall)—Order! Senator Moore, could you resume your seat for a moment. I call the Senate to order and ask those senators who are not going to listen to this debate to leave the chamber.

Senator MOORE —They may be interested in the local mosque, Acting Deputy President Marshall. As the Imam said in welcoming people to his mosque, he grew up and was educated in England and there is no mosque in England that can claim to have a centenary of life behind it. On that basis—and I see that Senator Mason, who joined with us at the celebration, is here—we were able to celebrate and acknowledge the wonderful work, commitment and worship of the local Muslim community in our city. This was celebrated in many ways. One of the most rewarding parts of this celebration, and one which continues the mosque’s work with the community, is an extraordinary book by Mustafa Ally, a man who I have worked with over many years who came to live in Brisbane after growing up and working in South Africa. He took on the project of recording the history of the mosque with the local group and particularly with the help of Jenny Dean, who I met on the day.

I think it is an acknowledgement of the work of the Muslim community in our city that the start of this book has a foreword by the Hon. Kevin Rudd. The new Governor of Queensland, Ms Penelope Wensley, in what must have been one of her first official acts, put a message from the Governor. There were also the local people who had worked there over many generations to achieve what we now see as something important not just to the Muslim community but also to all of us in Queensland.

Those of us who have lived in the area cannot think of travelling through that part of Brisbane without looking up on the hill and seeing the green and white dome and the minarets. I remember as a small child being in the area and being lucky enough to visit the mosque. I remember being welcomed as family and as a schoolchild to come in and to learn more about the religion, to meet the people and to defuse some of the horrible myths that have built up over many years.

You can stand there and know that for a hundred years people have gathered on this one small piece of land in southern Brisbane. A group of people were there in 1906 when they worked with the local early settler Mr Henzell. They were welcomed onto that land where they met without the structures that they have today and from that time onwards they worked to get the money, buying the land in 1908 and establishing that corner of Brisbane as their safe place where they could practise their religion and welcome people there so that despite the various waves of Islamic immigration and visitation to our country there was a place there that they could call their own.

The early Afghan settlers who came into the western parts of Queensland as camel drivers were the first Muslims identified in the area. They had come to the southern parts of the country many years earlier. The first known mosque, at Maree in South Australia, was established in 1861. Then came other mosques in Adelaide in 1890, in Broken Hill in 1891 and in Perth in 1904. Then there was the Brisbane mosque in Queensland. I am sure that not many people who live and work in our country can understand that there have been people practising the Islamic faith living and working in our country for that long, and I think that is one of the great things the awareness of the celebration of the hundred years has brought home to many other people. Now through this book, which will be on the shelves of libraries and I hope in many schools, we see pictures and stories about the work, the commitment, the early services, and the key families who over so many years gave their hard work, their commitment and their faith to build our community.

At the beginning of the book it points out some people that should be acknowledged for how the mosque developed. It says:

Several groups serve to illustrate the diversity and the scale of contributions—all acknowledged with the greatest of respect.

(1)   The elders of the community whose dreams for establishing a place of worship, of learning, (Madrasa) for youth, and of community building for the sake of Allah (swt);

(2)   The Fijian people who contributed substantial funding to the project—sometimes their last and only one pound note—given for the sake of Allah;

(3)   The youth who would volunteer to work at the site to do whatever they could, perhaps best epitomised by Mr Yousef Goss who would go with his uncle to Brisbane on many occasions just to lend a small hand.

(4)   The Arabic calligrapher from Fiji who produced the script for the dome—

and which we can still see there—

   which was then traced painstakingly by Nazeer Goss with his father.

(5)   The building team under the supervision of Shaffee Mohammed Golam Goss—bricklayers, tilers, labourers and landscapers.

(6)   Those who excavated the site and removed rubble load by load to prepare the way.

All those people gave their time and their effort so we could see where people could gather together and practise their faith.

At the beginning of the book it says—and it is old quote:

Whoever builds a Mosque for the love of Allah, Allah will build for him a mansion in paradise.

The many people who gathered at Holland Park last month can know that that work has led to sharing in some form of paradise. A particularly personal experience for me was that when we arrived there were so many small children there from very many different cultural backgrounds. They were so excited, running around sharing in the celebration of their faith and also enjoying the fete that was put on to mark the occasion.

I was able to talk with some of the ladies group there. Consistently through this book great credit is given to the various women’s groups over the years that have worked, often behind the scenes but now much more prominently, to raise funds to build a safe place. One of the fundraisers for the women’s group was a cupcakes stall. Somehow I found it particularly meaningful. The day before I had been at the local Catholic school fete in my own suburb. I had gone to the local ladies group at the Catholic school fete and bought cupcakes. For some reason it came home to me that there I was on two separate days in different parts of Brisbane working with different faith communities, both of whom worked so strongly in their own communities to provide so much social strength for so many people. The real strength of our community is based in groups of people who come together and share and work for others. And on these two separate days, at the Catholic fete and then the celebration of 100 years of the mosque, we had families celebrating and working with the same recipes. I found that to be a particularly meaningful moment. I want to congratulate the Islamic community of Queensland and of Brisbane, in particular. It is such a vibrant community that works so actively and with such enthusiasm across the board to build community and to ensure that all of us have a greater awareness of sharing our knowledge and our acceptance.

There were some tough times for the community. We know that after the September 11 acts overseas there were some pretty tough times across Australia. In Brisbane itself there were attempted fire-bombings and attacks on people in the streets, based purely on the way they looked and on their religion. That was forgotten last month when we celebrated the centenary of their mosque. Somehow I think it is also part of building our awareness and our knowledge. The chairperson of the community who led the welcoming ceremony last week, Mohammed Abdul Gaffar Deen, talked about his own personal experience over many generations of his family working there. He welcomed all of us to share in their celebration and we all hope that in the future we can go back to the mosque and celebrate future activities, knowing that we are welcome and knowing that whilst we share in building a mosque for the love of Allah, we will also hopefully share in paradise in the future.