Politicians, community and religious leaders from across Victoria gathered at a mosque in Melbourne’s east to show their support after the prayer hall was reportedly vandalized. Charges have been laid against eight suspects after the property was damaged last weekend.
The Baitul Salam mosque was reportedly vandalized nine times, the last of which was caught on CCTV, with suspects scaling the 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 time,” said Minister of Religion for the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community of Australia, Wadood Janud Imam.
The weekend’s events traumatized many members of the 2,000-strong Ahmadiyya community, many of whom are refugees. But the outpouring of support and goodwill from the community made it bearable.
“The overwhelming majority of the wider local community has been very, very supportive and understanding,” said Ahmadiyya Muslim Community of Victoria Langwarrin Chapter President Osama Ahmed.
On Friday, the mosque held a solidarity event to reassure worshipers that they are not alone. Jewish community leaders gathered with Muslim leaders to condemn the alleged attack.
“Even though we all come from different beliefs, we all need to support each other,” Rabbi Yaakov Glasman said.
Leaders of Victoria’s Sikh community were also on hand to show their support.
“We feel the pain, we know that’s why we come together because you never know when something will happen to you too,” said Jasbir Singh, from the Sikh Interfaith Council of Victoria.
Mr Imam said worshipers who attend the mosque will respond with love, not hate, to suspected attackers.
“Our response will be to counter hatred, anger and ignorance through education and awareness of love,” Mr Imam said.
Victorian MPs, including Opposition Leader Matthew Guy, also attended the event to condemn the alleged attack.
On Friday, Victorian Opposition Leader Matthew Guy spoke at the Baitul Salam Mosque. Credit: LAJ
“We are all Australians. This is what unites us, not what divides us,” Mr Guy said.
Eight men between the ages of 18 and 62 have been charged in connection with the attack, with one count each of burglary and trespassing. They were released on bail to appear in court at the end of October.
For the mosque, whose name translates to House of Peace, it is understanding and not retribution that worshipers want most.
“Our wish is to get closer and we can all be friends,” Mr Ahmed said.