Top cops call for tolerance towards Muslim community

WITH heightened tensions over a new mosque in Maroochydore, a top cop says we have nothing to fear from the Muslim community.

Superintendent Darryl Johnson, former head of Queensland's Security and Counter-Terrorism Group, has also warned police won't tolerate discrimination.

Supt Johnson said police would not tolerate language and actions that discriminate against people.

He said police and the Anti-Discrimination Commission were looking at ways to tighten laws around discrimination to protect vulnerable minority groups.

"We live in a land of free speech and to use language and actions that discriminate is foreign to what it means to be Australian," he said.

"Police will take action against this where we can."

Existing legislation has made it very difficult for police to prosecute and so far only one case of verbal racist abuse has ended up with a conviction.

This was after a racist rant on an Ipswich train in 2014 when a man swore at a train guard, telling him to learn English.

District Inspector Jason Overland, who has lived on the Sunshine Coast most of his life, said tensions had heightened since the region's Muslim community had bought a parcel of land in Church Street for a permanent place of worship.

Supt Johnson said the community shouldn't be able to tell other people where they can or can't pray.

"We need to appreciate their wants and needs and for Muslims to be able to pray and meet socially is very important," Supt Johnson said.

"Whether we have come for a different future or have spent our whole lives here, we share a collective identity based around common fundamental shared values of mutual respect, freedom of speech and belief."

In his position as Security Operations Unit commander, Supt Johnson was involved in the investigation of many potential terrorist groups.

In this role, he had developed many close friends who are Muslim.

"Over the years, I have made many genuine friends who are Muslim.

"There is only a very, very small percentage of Muslims who become radical and extreme in their ideologies."

Supt Johnson's "greatest fear" for Australia was the risk of a right-wing attack.

"We all need to work together to prevent harm to our families and communities," he said.

"In the main, Muslims are very kind, peaceful people, many of whom are professionals who live and work in our community.

"I find it abhorrent we have people within our community who marginalise members of the Muslim community.

"They are marginalised because of lack of knowledge."

Supt Johnson said conversations, like the one organised by the Anti-Discrimination Commission and the University of the Sunshine Coast on Saturday, were important.

Inspector Overland said the Coast Muslim community was "small" and had been here for 10 to 15 years.

The Inspector said their purchase of the Church Street site coincided with "world events that were out of their control".

"They are regular, family people who want somewhere to pray," he said.

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