Weekend clash just the beginning: anti-mosque protesters
ANTI-mosque protestors have vowed to escalate the campaign following ugly clashes between them and pro-mosque campaigners on the streets of Maroochydore yesterday.
Insults were traded and tempers flared as about 500 people - most of them opposed to mosque plans - faced off outside the proposed site in Church St.
Restore Australia chief executive Mike Holt said the protest was not a one-off and more action would be taken until the mosque proposal was scrapped.
"There'll definitely be more protests," Mr Holt said.
"There will be more - we're just deciding what to do next.
"We won't stop until we stop the mosque."
Uniformed and plain-clothes police officers kept a close eye on the crowd, at one stage ordering an anti-mosque protestor from the stage as he began to speak of beheadings and fears over a mosque.
The pro-mosque crowd was predominantly younger people, some students, who took to the streets to vent their frustration at perceived narrow-minded attitudes towards Muslims, while the anti-mosque group was more of a cross-section, with many older members of the community joined by a large number of young people eager to preserve the Coast's identity.
Among the most vocal was born-and-bred Sunshine Coast man Greg McKenzie, 22, who warned a mosque would threaten the Coast's way of life.
"This is the Sunshine Coast and this is Australia and I'm not going to stand by and let a mosque be built here where they degrade our women and our culture," he said.
"This is Australia. This isn't a place for them to come and take over our culture and our country.
"I just think it's disgusting that people stand here and support a religion they have no idea about. They obviously haven't read the Koran. The Koran states that any infidels should have their heads chopped off, that our women should be raped, stuff like that, you know. That's disgusting."
Coast resident and New Zealand native Peter, 74, who did not want to provide his surname, said the site had to be opposed as it posed a threat to the Coast community.
"I think having a mosque here is a threat when you look at what is happening around the world today - they're still killing Christians, burning churches, killing Jews, and I believe that if you trace back the life of Muhammad, you'll see that he destroyed, killed and everything else," Peter said.
"When you study the life of Jesus Christ, he came, healed the sick, raised the dead, was crucified, but rose again and he's still alive.
"No, I just think that deep down the religion (Islam) itself teaches hatred.
"It's a disgusting religion. I'm in the Catholic Church over the road and I'd hate to think it was opposite. It's evil and I'm totally against it."
Passions ran just as high in the pro-mosque camp, where
David Knobel, 29, was adamant Australia had the capacity to be a tolerant, multicultural nation.
"I believe that this (protest) isn't about Islam, this is about bigotry," Mr Knobel said. "They're (the anti-mosque group) protesting because they're bigots, and we don't like bigots.
"We believe that Australia should be a tolerant nation. We believe that we should be a multicultural nation and we wanted to stand up in counter-protest to what they're having to say because it's really just ignorance.
"What's been proposed here (the mosque) is not anything to do with terrorism, it's not anything to do with the beheadings, it's not anything to do with ISIS.
"They are whipping up fear and hatred in the community and we want to stand up in solidarity with our Muslim friends."
Rhea Abraham, 26, an atheist, was brought to tears by yesterday's events and said the Muslim community needed support, not further alienation.
"By protesting and showing them (the Muslim community) so much hatred, you are doing exactly that (driving them to radicalism)," she said.
"You're pushing any moderates who are sitting on the fence the other way. You're pushing anybody with a good heart and a good mind on them away and you're showing them that they're not welcome.
"If we don't associate the KKK (Ku Klux Klan) with Christianity, why should we associate ISIL, or ISIS for that matter, with Islam?
"The issue is that people don't realise the majority of the Muslim community out there are like you and me ... they want the same things. They want safer streets, they don't want crime, they don't want any of that crap, and they (the anti-mosque group) don't see that and it's very sad."