Fears for Yallourn North mosque

The keeper of the Yallourn North mosque sought police assistance to protect the 18 year-old place of worship on the same day anti-Islam rallies were scheduled overseas and in Bendigo.

Islamic Society of Gippsland president Adnan Gilbanovic said he had received information the same group who organised the 10 October anti-Muslim rally in Bendigo had also planned to hold a protest in Yallourn North.

Mr Gilbanovic, whose father donated a four-bedroom house and converted it to serve as a central mosque for Latrobe Valley’s Muslims, said he was concerned for the property’s safety after reading negative comments from the United Patriots Front’s Facebook page.

“The comments were inciting, we were a soft target for them,” Mr Gilbanovic told The Express.

On Saturday, protesters led by the UPF held a demonstration in Bendigo following the City of Greater Bendigo’s decision to approve the construction of a mosque in the area.

A counter protest was also staged by the Rally for Diversity, prompting authorities to dispatch more than 400 police officers to quell a possible clash between the two groups.

The UPF protest was borne from a call by a former United States marine encouraging people to hold demonstrations in areas where there were mosques.

Mr Gilbanovic said while there were no direct threats from the Facebook comments he read, they encouraged people to go out and “voice out their concerns against Islam”.

Moved by the “inciting” comments, Mr Gilbanovic locked the mosque and had phone numbers on hand to use “just in case” the protest pushed through.

He said he was relieved those who planned to hold the demonstration at the Yallourn North mosque appeared to have “called it off” as he did not observe any cars stopping by or see anyone stalking the area.

The father of four, who also lives next to the mosque, said police knocked on his door the day before the protests “to make sure everything was alright”.

On Saturday Mr Gilbanovic said he performed his regular weekend routine and saw police officers patrolling the area.