Last Wednesday night, Bendigo Council voted 6-2 to approve a $3 million mosque to serve 200 Muslims who live there. One wonders how 200 Muslims can put their hands on $3 million.
Councillor Mark Weragoda who voted for the application, woke to find black balloons tied to the front of his business, where he also lives. The balloons have been appearing all around town, in trees and on buildings.
More than 200 people attended the council meeting on Wednesday night and police were on hand, just in case. During the angry debate which lasted for two hours, councillors were constantly shouted down, accused of being liars, and not taking any notice of what ratepayers wanted. "If you're Muslim and want a mosque, go back to the Middle East, this is Australia" someone shouted.
Mr Weragoda who migrated from Sri Lanka to Bendigo when he was 14, said the council meeting was the first time he had really felt hatred against multiculturalism. Whenever he spoke at the meeting, protesters played middle-eastern music.
A Facebook page "Stop the Mosque in Bendigo" has attracted 7500 followers. Only two councillors, Helen Leach and Elise Chapman votted against the mosque.
Opponents of the mosque have been goaded by a YouTube video by Zaky Mallah, a Sydney activist. "The system is on our side" he says in the video. "And the funny thing is, you can't do anything about it."
Mr Mallah, who has no association with the Bendigo Muslim community, said he hopes the 4am call for prayer is turned up "full blast" when the mosque opens.