An often misinterpreted religion, Islam is Australia’s third most dominant faith with over 476,000 adherents. Islam sits at the forefront of global controversies regarding terrorism, extremism and jihad. With over 1.57 billion followers in the world, people have allowed the horrendous acts of its minority to define the majority. The initial prejudice against Muslims was sparked by events such as 9/11 and has been further fuelled by the acts of terrorist organisations such as Al-Qaeda and ISIL. These preconceived ideas blind many Australians to the true beliefs of Muslims and ignite racism, segregation, hatred and rivalry among Muslims and non-Muslims. With tensions rising globally regarding Muslims, Australia has been no exception. The confusion and anger of Australians, particularly young Caucasian men, was translated through violent protests and riots motivated by ‘Islamophobia’ , specifically in Sydney. Contrary to common belief Mackay, despite being a comparatively rural country town, has seen no major incidents of discrimination against Muslims in the previous decade. To a significant extent racism towards Muslims in Sydney has been far more prominent than that in Mackay. Rising global tensions had an impact on the perception of non-Muslims in Sydney and these tensions boiled up to violent outburst among Sydney siders such as the Cronulla riots. Contrary to common perception Mackay has had peaceful interactions with its Muslims as the Mackay community has cohesively interacted with Muslims resulting in a co-existence. Lastly the different behaviours of Muslims in Sydney versus Muslims in Mackay has resulted in tensions in Sydney and general cohesion in Mackay.
Over the past decade escalating tensions abroad between Muslims and non-Muslims have impacted the Australian attitude towards Muslims. To a significant extent the behaviour of non-Muslims in Mackay is applaud-able when compared to Sydney because despite Mackay’s small Muslim population, Mackay has embraced its Muslims and supported the development of the Mackay mosque whereas Sydney’s mosques have been prone to hate crimes such as acts of vandalism. Mackay’s mosque was built in 1983 with approximately 250 Muslims present at the time, to avoid later controversy the family responsible for the development of the Mosque, the Cantor family, published an ad in the local paper asking for any objections against the building of the mosque to speak up. Patriotic Australian and proud Muslim, Cantor (2015) detailed the events revolving around the construction of the mosque and added: “There was not a single objection when we put up that ad, not one”. Cantor further discussed the support local Mackay residents provided when building the mosque such as raising money for mosque funds by “baking little goods and things”. Another local Muslim present during the building of the mosque wrote “Women united….with unconditional support….disregarding creed and colour” (Solimon, p26) Through their first hand experiences and observations Cantor and Solimon both discuss the support of non-Muslim Mackay residents when building the Bakers Creek mosque, not only were there no hostilities regarding the mosque but there was support and generosity observed from the community. Comparatively Sydney experienced both verbal and physical disruption when building one their mosques in late 2014. South-western suburbs saw an attack on its local mosque during the process of construction. ABC reporter Allan Clarke (2014) describes the vandalised mosque as “…peppered with anti-Muslim and race hate stickers.” Images taken by channel 9 reaffirm the observation that this act was a racially motivated hate crime. Head of the mosque Shaykh Shady (2014) said: “They’ve gone right through and ripped out all the power, electricity and generators, they’ve taken the nuts and bolts out of everything and probably caused about