Politicians, community and faith leaders from across Victoria have come together at a mosque east of Melbourne to show their support after the prayer hall was allegedly vandalised. Charges have been laid against eight suspects after the property was damaged last weekend.
The Baitul Salam mosque was allegedly vandalised nine times, the latest one caught on CCTV, with suspects allegedly scaling security fences, breaking into the building and desecrating the prayer area.
“The physical damage will take a few days to repair but the psychological repercussions — the shock-waves — will take some time,” Minister of Religion at the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community Australia, Wadood Janud Imam, said.
The events of the weekend traumatised many among the 2,000-strong Ahmadiyya community, many of whom are refugees. But the outpouring of support and goodwill from the community has made it bearable.
“The overwhelming majority of the local wider community has been very, very supportive and understanding,” President of the Langwarrin Chapter of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community Victoria, Osama Ahmed, said.
On Friday, the mosque hosted an event of solidarity to reassure worshippers they do not stand alone. Leaders from the Jewish community came together with Muslim leaders to condemn the alleged attack.
“Even though we all come from different beliefs, we all need to be showing support to one another,” Rabbi Yaakov Glasman said.
Leaders from Victoria’s Sikh community also attended to show their support.
“We feel the pain, we know that’s why we come together because you never know when something will befall you too,” Jasbir Singh, from the Sikh Interfaith Council of Victoria, said.
Mr Imam said worshippers who attend the mosque will respond with love, not hatred, to the suspected attackers.
“Our response will be that of countering hatred, anger and ignorance with love education and awareness,” Mr Imam said.
Victorian MPs, including opposition leader Matthew Guy, also attended the event to condemn the alleged attack.
“We are all Australians. It’s what unites us, not divides us,” Mr Guy said.
Eight men aged between 18 and 62 years have been charged over the attack, with one count each of burglary and trespass. They’ve been released on bail to face court in late October.
For the mosque, whose name translates to House of Peace, it’s understanding not retribution that worshippers want most.
“Our wish is to come closer and we can all be friends,” Mr Ahmed said.
Image Credits: International Quran News Agency/9 News