A win for racists in Camden

Organised racism scored a win on May 27, when Camden Council voted unanimously to reject a proposal to build the 1200 student Al Amanah Islamic College in the south-western Sydney suburb.

The decision came after recommendations were given by council planners on May 23 not to approve the development on planning grounds.

In their report to Camden Council the planners claim that the "proposal is not consistent" with planning and policy for the area. However, it seems clear that action taken by organised racists from both within and outside Camden had some influence on the council decision.

Indeed, the authors of the report mention the "level of community interest evidenced by the number of submissions" the council had received in regard to the application.

According to a May 27 report in the Australian, from the time the application by the Qur'anic Society Dar Tahfez El-Quran Inc was made public on October 17, 2007 until public submissions closed on November 13, Camden Council received 3000 submissions — only 50 of which were in favour of the proposed Islamic school.

The organised nature of the racist and Islamophobic opposition to the proposal was demonstrated by a public meeting of around 800 people organised by a group calling itself the "Committee for Public Affairs Education" on December 19, 2007. Under the guise of a local residents group, the far-right Christian Democratic Party (CDP), led by Fred Nile, organised this meeting.

Members of other right-wing groups, such as the NSW Knights of the Southern Cross (a conservative Catholic organisation) and the far-right Australia First Party, also participated. Nile was the keynote speaker. Other far right speakers included the MC, Robert Balzola, who is a Christian lawyer and member of the NSW KSC and the Religious Freedom Institute (a Christian lobby group).

With the meeting underway, a crowd chanted "Aussie, Aussie, Aussie, Oi, Oi, Oi" as Nile spread his message of racial and religious intolerance. He told the meeting that he was against the Islamic school because Islam was against Christianity, and that in the Christmas season the Koran condemned Australian Christians for singing Christmas carols.

The objections to the proposed Islamic school voiced at this public meeting were not based on sound planning concerns.

Nile has a three-decade career of right-wing intolerance. He has recently branched out from his standard homophobia and conservatism to speak out against Islam and to call for the end of Muslim immigration to Australia. This was added to the platform of his CPD last year. In a media release before the 2007 federal election Nile also called for all Islamic schools to be closed.

But the public meeting of December 19 was not the first piece of racist intimidation that Camden has been subjected to. On November 28 last year two pigs' heads were impaled on pikes and an Australian flag draped between them on the proposed site for the Islamic school.

Muslims in Australia and other Western countries have suffered increasing levels of racism, intimidation and discrimination since the beginning of imperialism's current wars in the Middle East. The case of the Al Amanah Islamic College demonstrates that this intolerance has reached even sleepy, semi-rural Camden.

[Pat Donohoe is a teacher and member of Socialist Alliance.]