Asia/Pacific - Australia
Rejected Islamic school in NSW court win
By Vikki Campion ("Daily Telegraph," July 1, 2009)
Liverpool, Australia - AN 800-student Islamic school planned for the middle of a housing estate has been given the final go-ahead.
The new campus for one of the top 10 schools in New South Wales, Malek Fahd Islamic, will be built in Sydney's southwest, The Daily Telegraph reports.
Residents of Hoxton Park led a nine-month campaign of rallies, protests, petitions and letter-drops against the school, but it was given approval by Liverpool Council on Monday night.
Residents said another school would worsen daily commutes as narrow cul-de-sacs became major thoroughfares, but Islamic groups feared there were racist undertones to the objections.
Other Islamic shools have had to struggle against similar protests to get their building projects approved.
A 1200-strong Al Amanah College will be built in Bass Hill after it was twice knocked back by Bankstown Council - a decision later overturned by the Land and Environment Court.
And plans for the 600-student Qaadiri school at Austral, which were knocked back by Liverpool Council, are due to go before the court this week.
Camden Council's rejection of the Quranic Society's 1200-student school at Camden was upheld last month.
Independent school development is slow, with only three in greater Sydney hitting planning tables each year.
NSW Association of Independent Schools executive director Geoff Newcombe said "traffic" had become code for "prejudice".
"It seems more than a coincidence that each time an Islamic school applies to set up, there are objections about traffic congestion," he said.
Most Islamic students go to public schools rather than try to squeeze in on a waiting list to one of only 14 Islamic institutions in Sydney. In the same area, there are 74 Anglican schools, 80 Christian, and 625 Catholic schools.
"There is a huge demand or we would not be doing this," said school spokesman Australian Federation of Islamic Councils president Ikebal Patel.
"It is better that we teach Muslim students in a controlled environment, with our vision vetted by the NSW Education Department, than have them educated in backyard garages."
Liverpool mayor Wendy Waller said roads would be widened to cope with extra traffic.