Most of the objectors live outside the local municipality, with some based in country Victoria.
Whittlesea Council recently rejected the proposal in a split vote, despite its own planning officers recommending it go ahead and receiving a 2000-signature petition backing the school.
Cr John Fry (pictured), who supported the plan, said today he had detected an anti-Muslim undercurrent in some of the opposition to the school.
”They were afraid there was going to be a mosque there or noise from call to prayers or whatever,” he said.
”There didn’t seem to be an understanding of what the actual proposal was.
”There is an unfortunate thing that people who don’t understand different cultures can react negatively.”
Islamic Council of Victoria spokesman Nazeem Hussain said it was puzzling that the council had rejected the advice of its own staff on the feasibility of the project.
”It would be upsetting and unfortunate if the basis for these objections was due to anti-Muslim undercurrents,” he said.
”Given that many of these objections came from outside of the Mernda area, it would suggest that there has been a concerted effort to not see this project come to fruition, as opposed to there being bona fide traffic or planning concerns.”
Mr Hussain said Victoria was a vibrant multicultural society and the Islamic Council would expect those responsible for decision-making not to ”succumb to ideas that divide us”.
The council planning officers’ report said there were only 75 objections from the Mernda area and more than 90 per cent of the total objections received were co-ordinated through a group called Friends of Mernda Heritage Site.
”The Friends group has advised planning officers that many of the objections from those not residing in the area have typically been signed by friends and family of those living in proximity to the (heritage) area … and individuals having an interest in the heritage precinct or heritage issues more generally,” it said.
In its form letter to council, the group said that the heritage precinct would be severely compromised by the proposed development and traffic and parking issues could not be resolved.
Great Prophet Centre spokesman Hassan Al Khirsany accused objectors and Whittlesea Council of discrimination.
?We believe that strong objections against the school were because of our background,? he said.
?Signatures were collected by old generation people who were telling others that this school might turn into a mosque and the call for morning prayer will cause lots of noise.”
Mr Al Khirsany rejected objections regarding traffic and heritage issues, saying he had no doubt that plans for a Catholic school would have been well supported.
But Cr Pam McLeod, who voted against the Muslim school proposal, said it was all about traffic and heritage matters.
?Nothing that was put in front of me had any element of racism that I could see,? she said.
?We are one of the most multicultural communities in terms of a municipality in Victoria so how could you possibly be racist or favouring one group over another.
”It?s just not on.?
Whittlesea mayor Cr Steve Kozmevski said that while the planning officers? report was considered, the council had the opportunity to study in detail the issues raised by many hundreds of objectors who highlighted potential traffic, amenity and heritage impacts of the development.
?It is unfortunate but inevitable that some people would be disappointed with the outcome of council?s decision,? he said.