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Category: Interviews »

Subject: Religion »

Mosque attack, September 2001

Mohammed Abdalla.

Mohammed Abdalla recalls the arson attack on his mosque in the wake of 9/11 and how the community turned this destructive act into a way of building bridges with the wider community.



Date Added:

16 February 2006


Mohammed Abdalla interviewed by Andrew Jakubowicz for MMA. Photograph of fire damage: David Kelly, The Courier-Mail


mov (Quicktime);

File size:

4.4 MB


3 min 30 s


Photograph of fire damage: David Kelly, The Courier-Mail

Particularly after 9/11 we went through a very difficult time. And immediately after that, on the 22nd of September 2001, our mosque, that is the mosque that I pray in, in Kuraby – a very quiet area and the last thing you would expect that some problems would happen there – but I think it's the first mosque in the world that was burnt down to the ground… I was living next to the mosque. I'd moved.. I was about 200 metres away from the mosque, just to put things in context…

It was a Friday night, 2.30 in the morning, my wife woke up, and it's like our house was on fire. And I jumped out of bed…

And now the community began to come, in big numbers. The media also began to come. So the trustees of our mosque, they said: you handle the media. And so my first response was, we forgive this person, whoever did it, we forgive him. And we understand that he has acted on an impulse because of what the media has been propagating…

The community could have reacted in one of two ways: one to be emotional and violent, and the other is to demonstrate the true aspect of Islam. And so the community leaders, they came to me and they said: we want you to speak to the media, we want you to represent us. So I represented them, I gave the moderate view of Islam. And we made of that difficult situation, we changed it into something that is positive, where we created and built a lot of bridges between us and "the other"…

Breaking down of negative perceptions on both sides – and that's fundamentally important in order to create a multicultural, pluralistic society. Because I don't believe that tolerance alone is sufficient. Because we may tolerate each other because we have to, but then when things get tough, this tolerance can fade. In order to sustain that tolerance in times of difficulties, it is important that we understand each other…

We are so lucky that we don't have the problems that they have in New South Wales, or even in Victoria… If there is a particular issue that is in dispute it is discussed with the scholars, with the trustees and people of the community, behind closed doors, and then it gets sorted out…

Regardless of our religious traditions or ethnic backgrounds, at the end of the day we are all human beings. And if they are Christians, and, or Jewish or Muslims, we all come from Adam and Eve, our father and mother. And not only Islam, but the other traditions teach us that. So we need to - especially the young men and women at the school level - they need to really realise, not only realise, to know seriously, to go and find seriously about the others, to go and study about other cultures…

We are Australians. We chose to be different in our faith tradition but that does not undermine, that should not undermine the Australian character of a fair go and so on.