The peace of evening prayers at the Thornlie mosque and Australian Islamic College campus on Tuesday night, in its quiet suburban setting, was shattered by the bangs of cars catching fire. Despite the “violent, horrible lunacy” of an apparent hate crime outside a Perth Islamic school on Tuesday, the principal says the community will strengthen their determination to befriend their enemies.
Police suspect an accelerant was used to start the fire, which gutted one car and damaged three others. Anti-Islamic graffiti was painted nearby and police are looking for three men seen fleeing the area.
Australian Islamic College executive principal Abdullah Khan said despite there having been multiple attacks on Islamic places of worship in Perth, this was the most serious attack to ever touch his community and he was disheartened.
“But we also understand that this is a small part of the community,” he told Radio 6PR.
“The perpetrators of this attack are not representative of the Australian mainstream community.”
Dr Khan said just as the Christian faith preached ‘turning the other cheek’, the Koran said “we will turn an enemy into a friend”.
“This is our message of peace and tolerance,” he said.
“We will go about business as usual because we understand the aim of these people is to create disharmony and fear. If we bow to that we are supporting their agenda.”
He said the staff at the school would attempt to shield students, aged from four-year-old kindergarteners to Year 10s, from the details of and motivation for the crime.
“We have not told the kids,” he said.
“It is difficult for them to understand the motive and the reasons for this.”
Local MP Chris Tallentire said he believed in his community’s strength and cohesion.
“We will stand against this violent, horrible lunacy,” he said.
“It is sad that this fine school has been attacked in this way.
“But really this is an attack on all of us – a peaceful community, an example of how successfully you can internationalise a community – people invest in Thornlie and make their lives here from all over the world.”
He said as part of that community he had come to understand something of Islamic tradition and he was unsurprised by Dr Khan’s message of goodwill.
“I am in admiration of the self-discipline, the respect and love of others, and the restraint, a quality strong in the Islamic faith,” he said.
“We will stand together.”
The sentiment was echoed by a teacher at the Australian Islamic College, who on Tuesday night posted a message of unity on Facebook.
“This, undoubtedly is a criminal act of hate, but it is the act of a person or group not the greater whole.” Yahya Adel Ibrahim wrote.
“I know the outpouring of support from the community will be overwhelming because Perth has the best, kindest, and most warm-hearted people.”
There have been several attacks on WA mosques in recent years. A pigs head was found at a University of WA mosque in December 2015, while a mosque in Rockingham was targeted with paint in 2014. The Southern River mosque was targeted with identical graffiti in 2014.