Upgrade planned for mosque

TO BETTER explain the intentions of the Australian Islamic Society of Bosnia and Herzegovina to upgrade its Penshurst mosque, Imam Salih Mujala brought out a photo.

The picture is of the country's capital, Sarajevo, and he points out the mosque with its minarets, the Catholic and orthodox churches with their spires and a synagogue.

Plans to renovate: Imam Salih at the Penshurst Mosque which they plan to upgrade. Picture: Jane Dyson

Plans to renovate: Imam Salih at the Penshurst Mosque which they plan to upgrade. Picture: Jane Dyson

"We all used to live in peace as brothers and sisters until someone threw a bone," he said, referring to the Balkan wars of the early 1990s.

"And we want to live in peace here and be a part of the community."

Imam Salih and mosque committee members stressed that nothing much would change regarding the mosque's use.

The plans submitted to the council were about much-needed repairs and renovations to the former church that the Bosnian Muslims acquired 25 years ago.

And it made sense to beautify the building along Islamic lines, of which a minaret was an important "safe house" symbol.

Executive member Enes Topalovic said the minaret would be about 1.5-metres in diameter with a staircase for maintenance purposes.

There would be no "call to prayer".

Mr Topalovic said that while they would like to increase their congregation, there were not that many Bosnian Muslims in Sydney, so this was unlikely.

There are five prayer times in a Muslim day and the busiest is Friday, when about 200 people attend to pray at the mosque. Many travel by train while others park in nearby streets.

"In the 25 years there have been no complaints and no visits by the police," Mr Topalovic said. "We've always tried to be good neighbours."

The mosque holds "open days" when the wider community is invited for Bosnian food and a better understanding of the Muslim religion and culture.

And the congregation was active in local affairs, including fund-raising for various community causes.

The mosque was a recipient of Oatley MP Mark Coure's recent St George Community Awards.

HEIGHT CONCERNS

HURSTVILLE residents have until this Friday (November 15) to express their views about the proposed upgrade of the Bosnian mosque at 445-447 Forest Road, Penshurst.

Proposed ground and first-floor additions include a new domed roof and 30-metre high minaret.

The plan was originally on exhibition from October 11 to 25, but as the proposed height of the minaret will be visible from a broader area, the council extended the notification area, issuing more than 3000 letters to surrounding residences, and extended the exhibition period.

Some nearby residents are concerned the mosque plans do not comply with the Hurstville LEP or DCP.

Their arguments against the proposal include: large group activities were not suitable for a residential area; the minaret would not match the nearby environment; the percentage of Muslims in the Penshurst area was only 4 percent, compared with Auburn’s 40percent; car parking, traffic flow and noise would become a problem; the minaret would affect privacy and property values would drop.

Should the Bosnian Muslims be able to get on with their plans? 

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