Sydney suburb denies racism against Muslims

Resident object Muslim school, welcome Catholics

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Residents of a Sydney suburb on Tuesday denied they were racist for objecting to a Muslim school but supporting plans for a Catholic school nearby, local media reported.

The Camden/Macarthur Residents' Group, set up earlier this year to fight a proposed Quranic Society Muslim school, said the yet to be approved Catholic school "ticked all the boxes."

"Catholics are part of our community so we should be supporting it on this basis alone," group president Emil Sremchevich told the Sydney Morning Herald.

"Why is that racist? Why is it discriminatory? It's very simple: people like some things but don't like other things. Some of us like blondes, some of us like brunettes.

"Why is it xenophobic if I want to make a choice? If I want to like some people and not like other people, that's the nature of the beast."

The Quranic Society said the group's stance was racially motivated.

"Everyone can see there is a double standard... No one knows anything about the Catholic school and they say, 'Yeah, give it a tick already'. I think racism is affecting this," spokesman Issam Obeid told the paper.

The residents' group opposed the building of the 1,200-student Muslim school in rural Camden in Sydney's southwest earlier this year.

Ahead of one heated public meeting, pigs' heads on stakes were placed on the proposed site with an Australian flag draped between them.

Camden council said the Islamic school was rejected in May on planning grounds, and religion had nothing to do with it

The Catholic proposal for nearby Cawdor would be treated the same way, it said.

Camden mayor, Chris Paterson, said the proposed Catholic school differed from the Islamic school because it would be built on grounds already owned by the church, zoned for school use and housing an existing school.