By Luke Voogt
Geelong’s newly-restored mosque will hold its first public open day since a deliberately-lit fire destroyed it two years ago.
“This is a place that is open to everyone and everyone is welcome,” said Geelong imam Shaykh Mohammad Ramzan.
The mosque reopened last month after Geelong locals raised about $400,000 for the $1 million-plus rebuild, with insurance money covering the remainder of the cost.
“It was not just the Muslim community but across the board,” Mr Ramzan said.
“It was marvellous. We waited for that day.”
The blaze destroyed the heritage-listed mosques’ roof and stained glass windows but left its bluestone exterior intact.
The Uniting Church moved the building “stone by stone“ from Geelong West to Manifold Heights in 1943, at a cost of 4000 pounds, Mr Ramzan explained.
The Muslim community bought the building in 1993.
“People can come to look at their heritage and how it’s integrated into Australian and Islamic cultures,” Mr Ramzan said.
“Rather looking at the mosque as something segregated or not belonging to us, we want people to see it as part of Geelong and our community.“
Geelong Muslims “wanted nothing“ to do with countries using differences in Sunni and Shiite Islam to justify conflicts and “political interests,” Mr Ramzan said.
“Living here together we have no problem. Sunnis and Shiites lived together peacefully in the past for 1300 years.”
Mr Ramzan said the majority of Muslims in Geelong were Sunni, like himself, but he welcomed Shiites to the mosque too.
“We have between 17 to 20 different nationalities and cultures practicing under the one roof.”
Mr Ramzan has long spoken against terrorists, who he said “have nothing to do with Islam or any other religion.”
“They are trying to hijack the peaceful teachings of Islam.“
He regularly preaches to his congregation that “human blood is sacred,” he said.
“In the Quran it’s very clear. They know what my stance is.”
Geelong Mosque opens to the public between 12pm and 4pm on Sunday as part of a Victoria-wide mosque open day.
Mr Ramzan said women would not have to wear headdress for the day but asked visitors to dress modestly.
Corio MP Richard Marles looked forward to attending the event.
“This Sunday is a great opportunity for non-Muslims to explore and better understand our city’s proud diversity,“ he said.