Snr Sgt Ashley Hull, Binil Kattiparambil, Ben Cook and Jill Armstrong at CQ Islamic Centre.
Snr Sgt Ashley Hull, Binil Kattiparambil, Ben Cook and Jill Armstrong at CQ Islamic Centre. Allan Reinikka ROK261018aopenday

Breaking the stigma: Mosque opens its doors to CQ

DESPITE common misconceptions surrounding the Islamic faith, Rockhampton's Islamic Society of Central Queensland is hoping to break down those barriers and invite the wider community in.

The mosque hopes to shatter the negative connections between Muslims and extremists by hosting an open day on Saturday.

President of the Society, Binil Kattiparambil, said since he began the open day six years ago, he has slowly seen these stigmas erased from the community.

"Tomorrow is a national open day, which a few mosques around the country taking part and welcoming the community.

"There will be Q&A sessions, henna and face painting, and a reptile show for kids. I think the big hit every year is the multi-cultural food festival.

"We get big numbers turn out and a lot of questions asked.

"Over the last two or three open days is that rather than more questions, there is more support and suggestions from the community which has been wonderful."

Mr Kattiparambil said the negative stigmas often associated with his religion stem from a lack of understanding of different backgrounds.

"That's why we keep this platform and host Q&A sessions so people can come ask any questions," he said.

"It would be awesome [for stigmas to disappear] but it still exists unfortunately.

"You've got to let hate go in one ear and out the other and keep moving forward. You've got to be optimistic.

"When I moved here, in the first year we had 12 windows broken. Last year we only had one. That's a great achievement I think."

The Queensland Police Service, Multicultural Development Australia, the Anti-Discrimination Commission Queensland (ADCQ), Rockhampton Regional Council and Queensland Fire and Emergency Services will partner up to host a Multi Faith Dinner last night.

There, representatives of the organisations will speak about the importance of building community relationships within the region.

ADCQ Central Queensland regional manager, Ben Cook, said the dinner is designed to explore the core values of different religions, rather than their differences.

"People have the opportunity to ask any questions they might have and through that information sharing, there's a better understanding of different religions and cultures," he said.

"When you form relationships and get to know people from different cultures, it can break down any stereotypes.

"It's very easy for people to be excluded, particularly if they only hang out with people of the same religion.

"The general public doesn't get a good idea of what it's all about and views them with suspicion."

Mr Cook said the message he hopes the public takes away from the event is that Muslims "aren't scary", share common values and want to start a discussion with the public.

"If you have any fears, we'd like to address those," Mr Cook said.

"We had a man come one year who had anti-Islamic views due to what he'd heard about in the news.

"If you're bombarded with words like 'terrorist', it's easy for people to connect Muslims with terrorists and treat the whole group badly.

"He came down, put his questions to Muslim leaders and in the end he hugged the Imam and said to him 'I no longer fear you. I feel like you're one of the family and the community'."

Rockhampton Police Senior Sergeant Ashley Hull said no matter one's religion or culture, "it's about building partnerships and breaking down barriers".

"Our job is to make sure everybody is safe and we've opened up those communication channels so if there's any problems, we will become aware and investigate," he said.

"The open day gives people the opportunity to come and talk and ask questions which are answered openly and honestly.

"People often come with an idea that's not right but then come away with a whole different idea."

The open day will be held at 132 Kent St at 10am.