Prayers allowed from 4am at new two storey mosque
UPDATE: A change of heart by the region's councillors means Muslims in Toowoomba will now be able to pray at their mosque before sunrise as required by their religion.
Toowoomba Regional Council approved an application for the expansion the Garden City Mosque today, which was the target of two arson attacks last year.
The intervention of Cr Megan O'Hara Sullivan, backed by Cr James O'Shea, led to a backflip from last week's decision that would have changed the start time of prayers at the mosque from 4am to 6am.
Cr O'Hara Sullivan had voted against the motion last week and remained consistent today, but couldn't explain the change of heart of her fellow councillors.
She said she hadn't solicited votes for her alternate motion or had spoken with the city's Muslim community.
"We need to have consistency… around what we approve and don't approve," she said.
"I believe… in freedom of religion, you can't tell people how to worship and when to worship.
"There are no problems with the hours of worship at the moment so we didn't need to change that condition."
Cr O'Hara Sullivan said conditions linked to the application would provide a better outcome for everyone.
The approval conditions include more car parks and noise mitigation measures.
The expansion will see the size of the mosque grow by 159sq m of gross floor area and it will rise to two storeys.
Voting against the proposal were Cr Bill Cahill and Cr Anne Glasheen - who had proposed the earlier start time last week.
Cr Glasheen said she made the proposal after being approached by members of the community regarding the early start times.
The councillor added she wasn't unhappy with the result of the vote.
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Cr Bill Cahill said he'd always been opposed to any expansion of the mosque because of possible risks to public safety.
He said increased traffic, pedestrian movements and parking issues were behind his vote against the application.
Garden City Mosque Imam Abdul Kader said last week that work would begin immediately on the rebuild and expansion of the mosque.
Founding president of the Islamic Society of Toowoomba professor Shahjahan Khan welcomed the decision.
"We had a series of meetings with the council officials and councillors regarding the requirements of the council for the development application, and we made sure that we met every single requirement so that there is no issues left to discuss.
"I appreciate the patience of the council officers and thank them for guiding us throughout the processing period of the application.
"I am pleased that the councillors have made the right decision at the end with some interesting discussions and debate."
Mr Khan said he wanted to thank the "peaceful and caring" residents of Toowoomba for their support for the mosque.
"I am grateful to the religious, political, cultural and community leaders of Toowoomba who have been united to stood by the mosque project.
"Many of them have direct link with the mosque and made submissions and taken their time to assist the project, and we value their significant contribution.
10.30AM: Toowoomba Regional Council has back-flipped on a controversial decision that would have prevented Muslims praying before 6am at the new Garden City Mosque.
Council had attempted to enforce rules that would not allow prayers to start until 6am.
Cr Megan O'Hara Sullivan called for prayers to be allowed at 4am, which is tradition. Cr James O'Shea supported that call.
Crs Anne Glasheen and Bill Cahill voted against the amended motion.
EARLIER: Members of the Islamic Society of Toowoomba will find out this morning whether they will be granted permission to rebuild and expand their mosque which was burned in two arson attacks last year.
Toowoomba Regional Council will this morning vote on approving the expansion of the Garden City Mosque by 159sq m of gross floor area.
The new plans will see the mosque rise two storeys high and the construction of new car parks.
At a committee meeting last week a fiery debate was held over the plans, with Cr Bill Cahill opposing the expansion and suggesting the mosque be rebuilt in a place other than West St.
Cr Megan O'Hara Sullivan also voted against the motion, arguing against a 6am start time that would be imposed.
Cr O'Hara Sullivan was in favour of the expansion but did not agree with the 6am start time.
Previously the city's Muslims had been allowed to pray at the mosque at 4am.
The region's other councillors supported approval.
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