Vikki Campion, Daily Telegraph (Sydney), March 12, 2012
What was to be a school for 1200 Islamic students is now being advertised as a “renovator’s dream”.
The developers behind the ill-fated Islamic school at Camden appear to be retreating from the suburb after thousands of residents mounted a campaign against it.
Bringelly real estate agents are spruiking the site as a “superb 15 acres” with a Victorian cottage featuring large veranda, three big bedrooms, two bathrooms, three fireplaces and high ceilings.
It has been listed for $1.69 million after a fruitless three-year campaign for an Islamic school — a battle lost in council and the courts.
Opponents waged a text message campaign, decapitated pigs’ heads were erected at the site and extremist protest websites appeared accusing Islam of propagating “horrific warlike child abusing values”.
The Quranic Society Dar Tahfez El-Quran bought the block for $1.38 million in 2005 and lodged a development application for a combined primary and high school. Camden Council refused it in 2008. The society went to the Land and Environment Court where, in 2009, Commissioner Graham Brown refused it.
Mr Brown found it was not suitable for the “rural character of the locality” and that the proposal “detracts from the (area’s) rural character”.
During the case, residents from the town, calling themselves “Camdenites”, pleaded with the court to take their fears seriously.
In a submission, Camden’s local heads of Baptist, Anglican, Presbyterian and the Evangelical Sisters of Mary churches said: “‘Islam is not simply a private religion. It is driven by a powerful political agenda, it is an ideology with a plan for world domination.”
The Land and Environment Court rejected the claims against religion being made in the “public interest” and said they were “given no weight in the consideration of the development application as they are irrelevant considerations”.
At the time, Quranic Society spokesman Jeremy Bingham said it was disappointed with the result.
“The commissioner found against the school on one very specific and limited ground which was that the school was urban in character and therefore not in keeping with the existing rural character of the area,” he said.