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Muslim School Plan Provokes Anger in Australia


Hundreds of demonstrators have protested against plans to build a Muslim school on Australia's Gold Coast. Residents waving placards bearing slogans like "Muslim school - Hell no!" have gathered outside council offices to vent their frustrations. From Sydney, Phil Mercer reports.

Muslim schools have operated in the northern Australian state of Queensland for many years. However, the prospect of another college has provoked public anger.

Plans have been submitted for an Islamic school on the Gold Coast, a ritzy coastal community south of Brisbane.

Some locals are worried about traffic and are concerned that the new development will only add to congestion on the region's roads.

Others have barely concealed their distaste for Islam and have made their feelings known on an Australian radio show.

"My main concern with the whole deal is what sort of stuff are they going to be teaching these children?" a female caller said. "Are they going to be teaching them radical Islam, go out and become a suicide bomber, oppress the women and all that sort of stuff?"

"They've got one agenda: get in, take over," a male caller said. "Australians, wake up, for God's sake. If we like our democracy and freedom, we should stop all Muslim immigration to this nation."

For the second time in a week, demonstrators have protested outside council offices on the Gold Coast.

The local mayor has said he has been shocked by the sentiments expressed by some of those attending the rallies.

The council has insisted that the multicultural region, which has more than 80 ethnic groups, has never had a reputation for racial or religious intolerance.

Supporters of the Islamic college's Gold Coast application have stressed that concerns that it would promote religious segregation and extremism have been disproved. The college's trustees have said that it would be open to students of all faiths.

The council will make a final decision, early next year.

Earlier this year, officials rejected plans for an Islamic school on the outskirts of Australia's biggest city, Sydney. Many residents in Camden said the presence of hundreds of Muslim students would harm their community. The council said it had based its decision on town planning issues, such as traffic flows.

Australia's Muslim community numbers about 350,000 people. Its members, have often complained about discrimination from the wider community.

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