A GYMPIE religious group has received terrorist-style threats over their plans for a Muslim community centre in Lady Mary Tce.
Gympie accountant Shahid Khan says he and the 30 or 40 Muslims in the region have never promoted violence or intolerance and are as concerned as anyone about the intolerance often shown towards Christians, especially in a lot of recent public discussion.
Now he says local Islam has been targeted on Facebook and in harassing phone messages, after a supporter mistakenly described the planned cultural centre as a mosque.
And that is a word which he says seems to bring out the hatred.
Some of the threats have included violence and they have even targeted his staff, who are not involved in the project,
"Who are the terrorists here?" he asked yesterday.
"We've been running a community centre in Ada St, just around the corner, in rented premises for 13 years and no-one's had a problem," he told The Gympie Times.
"I've been living in Gympie since 1984 and I've had nothing but acceptance and long standing friendships.
"I don't see how owning our own hall is going to change anything."
Mr Kahn says he saw the mistaken publicity material, promoting a fund raiser for the community centre and mentioning that it was a mosque.
"It's not a mosque, it's a church hall we want to buy from the Church of England.
"I probably did not take the mistake seriously enough and didn't do enough about clarifying it," he said.
"Mosques don't have toilets or kitchens in the same building, nor do Christian churches.
"We don't have an imam and we are not in a position to have five prayers a day."
And he says the two religions have much in common.
"Hatred, that's just people. Some people are fighting against intolerance by some Muslims but are practising it themselves.
"My take on Islam is it's a religion of peace and it's been a part of Australia since not only the gold rush but since the Afghani camel drivers held the country together in the outback, delivering mail and goods.
"Religion is a good thing. It promotes charity to the less fortunate, honesty in dealings, respect for elders and respect for the law of the land.
"Muslims are required to obey the law of the land, as long as it doesn't clash with the Quran (his spelling of the name of his religion's holy book).
"For example gambling is legal in Australia and is against our religion, but the law does not require people to gamble so there is no conflict.
"Islam teaches a middle road of tolerance, acceptance, help, charity and learning and has done since it was founded 1400 years ago."
Mr Khan was unwilling to pose for a picture after the threatening communications he has received, but said most of Gympie's 30 to 40 Muslims are professional people in medicine and business.
"I'm an accountant," he said.
Muslims overseas are major customers for Gympie beef producers and the people who work for them or who process their product for export.
And he says Islam and Christianity have so much in common it is ridiculous they should be in dispute.
"We believe in Jesus Christ. We believe he was Messiah and Saviour, we believe he was conceived and born miraculously, we believe he spoke from the cradle.
"We just don't believe Jesus is God.
"But we also believe in Adam as a prophet of God, and Noah and Moses and Solomon.
"All are mentioned in the Quran."
And there is one other thing about Christianity Mr Khan would like to adopt, particularly after the trouble he has had recently, over what he says was a well meaning error.
Told of a Christian saying that "the road to Hell is paved with good intentions," Mr Khan said he could understand that perfectly.
"I might just print that out and hang it on my wall," he said.
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