Usman Mahmood, a Lithgow residents who has organised a question and answer session about Islam on Friday, May 19, in Lithgow has requested community groups to refrain from protesting outside the forum.
Instead he has asked the anti-Islam group ‘Stop the mosque’ to attend the event and speak against Islam if they deem it necessary.
“Yesterday I came to know about the two protests on the Facebook page ‘Stop the Mosque, Lithgow’ and ‘Stop the hate Lithgow’ related to my event,” Mr Mahmood said.
“I have messaged both groups to request them to drop the protests and join the Q&A. If they wish I am happy to include them as a speaker against Islam in my program.”
The two groups formed on Facebook after news of a development application being considered by Lithgow City Council to use a house in Lithgow as a place of public worship.
The house at 53 Ferro Street is currently listed online as a place for muslims to pray in congregation as ‘Al hadid Masjid’ (mosque) and ‘Al Hadid Musallah’ (prayer room).
The anti-Islamic ‘Stop the mosque’ group oppose the new use of the house and ‘Stop the hate’ formed as an anti-racist counter group to, “keep Lithgow caring.”
Mr Mahmood organised his imam, Mohammed Atae Rabbi Hadi, to host a forum to address misconceptions and concerns he has heard voiced about Islam in the Lithgow community, particularly in response to the Ferro Street development application.
“If it was a church being built I would fight for the right of Lithgow residents to worship in the area.Imam Mohammed Atae Rabbi Hadi
Neither Mr Mahmood or Imam Hadi are associated with the Ferro Street development application, which has been lodged by followers of another branch of Islam.
Imam Hadi, however, supports the creation of a congregational prayer space.
“I think any worship taking place in a community can only bring good. There is a compulsion in Islam that people should be free to practice what they believe in and if they believe in god they should be free to practice their faith in god,” Mr Hadi said.
“If it was a church being built I would fight for the right of Lithgow residents to worship in the area.
“The overall benefit of a Muslim place of prayer is that people will have the freedom to practice their religion in Lithgow. If that is refused that harms the peace of society.”
Mr Mahmood has asked both the ‘Stop the mosque’ and ‘Stop the hate’ groups to “please attend the Q&A” in a post on Facebook.
‘Stop the hate’ have cancelled their counter protest outside the forum in response to Mr Mahmood’s request.
‘Stop the mosque’, however, have not cancelled their protest event with one member saying, “I will not be given ultimatums, if you want me to speak, you will give others their right to peaceful protest.”
Currently nine people have clicked ‘going’ on the anti-Islamic group’s protest Facebook event and twelve have said they are ‘interested’.