Police had to keep anti mosque protesters and supporters apart at an emotion-charged rally on the Sunshine Coast on Saturday.
More than 500 people – about 80% of them against the Islamic mosque – converged on land near the Stella Maris Catholic Church to protest the mosque plan.
Supporters of the mosque sang iconic Australian tunes, prompting outrage from a few of the anti mosque movement.
Streets around the protest were blocked off by police while plain clothes and uniform police had to repeatedly warn anti-mosque protesters to tone their comments and anger down.
An equally vocal contingent of young people defended the right of Islamic people to set up their own church, saying Australia was a democratic country. But protesters accused the youth of being ‘bussed in’ from the Gold Coast with some even resorting to insults over their university fees.
The situation became repeatedly heated as supporters of the mosque tried to convince opponents that most Islamic people were peace loving and represented no threat to Australia’s way of life.
Opponents, however, warned of beheadings, the introduction of sharia law, the loss of rights for women and the undermining of the Australian way of life.
Those supporting the mosque were told to ‘go back where you come from’ repeatedly by the more vocal minority in the crowd.
At one point police were booed as they ordered a protester to get down from a stage as he spoke of beheadings and his fears over a mosque.
Protesters questioned what happened to freedom of speech in Australia.
The crowd cheered as supporters lifted the man onto their shoulders so he could continue speaking.
Among those protesting the mosque were One Nation, Christian bikie gangs, opponents of halal meat certification as well as representatives from some local churches.
Both sides, not doubt, saw it as a sign.
Some of those supporting the mosque accused Christians of showing more hate than love while opponents said it was their right to defend Australia’s Christian heritage.
One elderly man brought with him a Koran, challenging the young people to read it, asking whether they really knew what was in it, or what the Islamic faith stood for.
Supporters challenged the Christians to get to know more Islamic people, saying they would realise they were peaceful people.
Many protesters though voiced fears those setting up an Islamic church would be ‘nice now’ but would ‘stab people in the back’ before long and try to take over the community.