Islamic school divides western Sydney suburb

| 16.06,09. 09:50 AM |

Islamic school divides western Sydney suburb

June 16, 2009 12:00am

RAPTUROUS applause and angry boos of derision greeted a decision by Liverpool Council to approve the development of a controversial new Islamic school in Hoxton Park last night.

The new plan for the school, which will have up to 800 kindergarten to Year 12 students is the latest in a series of application proposals for Muslim schools in Sydney, some of which have been marred by controversy.

Hundreds of members of the Muslim community who had crowded into the Liverpool Council Chambers burst into spontaneous applause and cheering after the councillors voted in favour of the decision to allow construction of the school to go ahead.

Interest-free loans for Muslims

Local residents have opposed the school on the grounds that it will increase traffic congestion in the area and that the land is flood prone.

School Principal Dr Intaj Ali said he welcomed the decision by the council to approve the development of a new campus of the Malek Fahd Islamic school which is the State's largest Islamic school.

"We are very pleased, he said

"All of the concerns of the local residents have been taken on board and considered by the council, he said.

He said he believed there was no element of racism or prejudice in the local opposition to the school.

"We have worked very hard towards this day and we would like to thank the people of Hoxton Park," he said.

Local residents who were strongly opposed to the school and who held a protest rally last year reacted angrily to the decision last night.

Mr Tony Byrne who lives in a property which adjoins the land zoned for the new school said the area is flood prone.

He said the land for the school will have to be raised two metres which will create additional problems with storm water run off for local residents.

Another local resident, who declined to be named, said the area is already heavily congested with traffic.

"The traffic in the area is ridiculous and this is just going to add to the problem, she said.

For the parents of two-year-old Amal Barghachoun the decision means they can sent their daughter to a school of their chosing.

"We are over the moon, " her mother Ronya Barghachoun said.

"She is going to be able to go to a school and learn about her own culture, " she said.

The plans for the Hoxton Park school were assessed by an Independent Hearing and Assessment Panel (IHAP), which recommended approval.

The IHAP said the proposal was considered to be acceptable, in the context of the proposed improvements to the local and regional road network.

"Assessment of the application has revealed that the development will not adversely impact on the safety and efficiency of the local and regional road network," the report said.

"The proposed siting of buildings and operation of the proposed educational establishment minimises any impacts on the amenity of surrounding residential properties."

The new school will have up to 800 students, 50 staff, temporary demountable buildings, a new road, car park and landscaping.

The land is owned by the Australian Federation of Islamic Councils.

In February, Liverpool council rejected a bid to build an Islamic school for 600 students at Austral because the site was zoned rural and Camden council's highly-publicised decision to reject plans for a large Islamic School in Camden was recently upheld by the Land and Environment Court.

The Daily Telegraph

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