The Daily Telegraph this morning published an article by so called “journalist” Tim Blair- titled “Last drinks in Lakemba, Taking A Look Inside Sydneys Muslim Land”. Lakemba is a Suburb in South West Sydney approximately 20 kilometres from the city. I live in the Lakemba area and I have lived here for a huge chunk of my life and this article had many blatantly paranoid views from a journalist that must have experienced a “culture shock”, despite knowing nothing about the culture- or the suburb itself.
Let me be the first to admit, sure enough Lakemba might not have the lush greenery of Sydneys Northern Suburbs or the glistening beaches of Sydneys South. Indeed it might not have that “cosmo” feel of the Inner West Suburbs nor the “wide open spaces” of the far West, yet this “Muslim Land” as he calls it has a lot more to offer than he had stated and sitting in a pub just talking to an Anglo Australian about Muslims is not exactly the most balanced way of getting a true taste of the area.
Let us first look at the confusion that Tim Blair has when he visits Lakemba. Tim Blair at first is shocked to not find a Gideons Bible inside his Lakemba accommodation, a $50 a night pub. I wouldn’t think a tacky pub hotel would be the most appropriate place to learn about God but lets move on from there. To soften the blow he initiates his article with a few compliments about the area, according to him Lakemba is a great place for Middle Eastern food and he compliments the suburbs late closing hours for every day amenities and that Ladies and Gentlemen is where the compliments end from this ever so curious Journalist. In his brief evaluation of the positives of the area he mentions that it has good food and that is about it. There is one very important aspect missing from his evaluation, what about the people? What about the PEOPLE Tim? We will get to the people in just a moment.
In his introduction photo Tim Blair posts a photo of Haldon street in Lakemba, in particular a bunch of foreign flags waving above foreign looking shops. Indeed this street looks more united than the United Nations itself, yet the shock value is lost once you find that the biggest and most obvious flag on top of these shops is…you guessed it…the Australian flag! Furthermore Tim Blair is extremely confused with the demographics of Lakemba and cannot seem to see the difference between Middle Easterners and Indian/Bangladeshi folk. I guess they all dress alike in Muslim attire so its one and the same. In his article he says that Lakemba is an” ethnic mix that seems similar to what you’d find in any Arabic city.”
The only bleeding obvious fact is that Lakemba is NOT an “Arabic city” and any layman can witness, with their own two eyes the extremely strong Indian and Bangladeshi influence. According to the 2011 census 21% of Lakembas population are of Indian/Pakistani and Bangladeshi descent whilst only 5% are Lebanese or “Arabic”. Tim Blair continues to then state that Lakemba is multicultural but also strictly is a MONOculture, which is highly offensive given that only 50% of the population are Muslim and again according to factual demographics the area also covers at least 20% Christians, 6% with NO religion and 5% Buddhists so yes, according to the demographics Lakemba does not have a single monoculture but is in fact a varied blend of races and creeds.
Tim Blair then decides to take advantage of the fragile and most recent Israel and Gaza conflict that cost the lives of almost 2,000 Palestinians. He mentions that a few weeks ago the streets of Lakemba were riddled with Pro Jihadi Muslim men chanting for both Palestine and Jihad. He then goes on to mention the link between a few extremists in the area and their supposed link to ISIS. In this summary based on the PEOPLE of Lakemba, we are off to a bad start because thus far Tim Blair has only painted the people of Lakemba to be violent extremists.
Is Tim Blair aware that hours before he wrote his misinformed article that Muslim officials gathered in Lakemba along side government officials to openly condemn extremism and promise to fight it? Funny how that is conveniently missing from his biased narrative of this suburb. Not to mention NSW Islamic Council’s Khaled Sukkarieh said in regards to the actions of extremist activity “We condemn it all in the name of Islam”.
In what appears to be a move made by someone trying to fulfil their preconceived notions about a place, as opposed to openly wanting to learn about it. Tim Blair made his way to an Islamic Book Store in Lakemba to sift through books and find particular pages with quotes that he found disturbing, including a Q&A book on Islam that openly stated you cannot support or love disbelievers. If Tim Blair had bothered to open the highest book of authority on Islam he will see that friendship is allowed. “Allah forbids you not, with regard to those who do not fight you for your Faith nor drive you out of your homes, from dealing kindly and justly with them: for Allah loveth those who are just.” (Quran 60:8.)
He then goes on to find other unsavoury book titles, of which I myself found to be in bad taste but alas if I were to walk in to any library in New South Wales I am sure that somewhere, somehow I will find a book or a quote in a book that I deem to be offensive, counterproductive or damaging– but the reality is that book, or that quote- still does NOT represent the people of the area and in this apparent smear campaign of Lakemba it appears Tim Blair is pulling at any straws to make Lakemba a place of savagery.
Tim Blair then takes his article to a whole other level by not only saying that the people of Lakemba are backwards extremists but he pulls the “unemployment” card out to indicate that the Muslim community of Lakemba are also lazy by highlighting the suburbs high unemployment rate. Sure, Lakemba has a relatively high unemployment rate in the Sydney district but how he links this to Islam or Muslims is rather peculiar seeming there are suburbs with HIGHER or similar rates of unemployment with extremely low Muslim populations- with these facts we break his chain of over the top assertions.
Lakemba has an unemployment rate of around 11%. The Sydney Suburb of Cabramatta has an unemployment rate of about 14%. Cabramatta has a 50% Buddhist population, will Tim Blair make a sweeping statement about welfare loving Asians or Buddhists? The unemployment rate of Wollongong in Sydneys south is almost 10%. No Religion is the highest demographic in the area. Will Tim Blair make a sweeping statement about Non Believing Heathens and their lazy Godless lifestyles? The unemployment rate of the Sydney Suburb Fairfield is almost 13% and the highest religious denomination is 35% Catholic. Will Tim Blair make a sweeping statement about shady “priests” and their lazy perverted population?
That just shows how shoddy this “drive-by” type of Journalism is. Tim Blair assumed that by renting a hotel and lingering in a suburb for some hours that he could make such ridiculous statements about this community, and yet still not a single nice thing about the people of Lakemba found in his article. If Tim Blair was honest in his endeavour to know more about the people of this estranged “Muslim Land” would it not make sense to visit Lakemba Mosque? The most popular mosque in Sydney? I am absolutely confident that he would have been welcome there with open arms by both officials and worshippers. Besides Lakemba Mosque is the venue where they have “open days” allowing people from all walks of life to tour the mosque, ask questions and learn more about Islam. Isn’t that what any honest journalist with integrity would do if he really wanted to “learn more” about a place and its people?
Lakemba is a diverse place and in fact the Ramadan Food festival just finished up in Lakemba. Where food stalls were open for all people whether at 6pm, 10pm or 2am. The News even broadcasted this event and on the two occasions I was at the 2014 Ramadan food festival I saw people from different cultures attend. I was sitting next to an American girl in a cafe having a laugh with her African American friend.. I saw two Latvian tourists. I saw two middle aged English ladies trying a Camel burger. I had a few work colleagues attend. This was another sign of the areas yes- good food but also good hospitality. I take my non Arab and Non Muslim friends to my area so they can get a glimpse of this “other side” and they always return home with nothing but good words to say, not only about the delicious food and late closing hours but also the strong sense of family and community that is seen all throughout the Lakemba region.
Journalists like Tim Blair are detrimental to society because they pretend to seek knowledge knowing they are endeavouring to only fulfil their own quota. It is beyond obvious that Tim Blair already had an opinion on Arabs and Muslims and he took this express trip under the guise of “journalism” to highlight this fantasy that he had- actively looking for what he wanted and sneakily avoiding what he wished not to confront. He travelled all the way to “Muslim Land” only to not speak to a single Muslim. How odd. As I said, I know that Lakemba is not the Santa Monica of Sydney, but for what its worth it has a lot more to offer than what Tim Blair presented in his dirty piece published by the Daily Telegraph.