The opening of the Gungahlin Mosque after a 17-year wait is ‘sheer joy’ for the 5000 to 6000-strong Muslim community in north Canberra.
The $2 million building which can hold about 600 worshippers was officially opened on Sunday at a community celebration that attracted about 2000 community members and supporters.
President of the Canberra Muslim Community, Mainul Haque, said that previously the community had to travel to Yarralumla mosque or the prayer space in Banks to worship.
But he said the mosque won’t just serve a religious need but also be a place of gathering and celebration for the community, which itself is comprised of 40 different nationalities.
Mr Haque said the community had been the driving force behind the project, with every cent coming from ‘Mums and Dads’.
Planning for the mosque began in 2001 and building approval was granted in 2012 but the Concerned Citizens of Canberra Inc appealed. It lost the fight to stop the mosque being built in 2015.
Mr Haque thanked the community’s non-Muslim supporters, particularly its Gungahlin Uniting Church neighbour, for standing by the project during the objections and court cases that delayed it.
“Gungahlin Uniting Church is an amazing next door neighbour. We are so grateful to them for their strong support, morally and in every possible way,” he said.
“All religion is from the same source – we should increase our tolerance and learn to live in a society in harmony, and the Gungahlin Uniting Church is the very best example of that.”
Sunday’s celebration was open to everyone. “The whole community was invited to meet us and to get to know us. That was the objective,” Mr Haque said.
He said the community was also grateful to the ACT’s main political parties for their support.
There are still big plans for the future with the site only half developed. Eventually there will be classrooms for educational activities, seminars for interfaith dialogue, a library, and a community kitchen and centre.
“There’s a lot more to be done,” Mr Haque said.