Munching against the fear of “the other”…

Nothing like a good serve of halal nosh to put things in perspective…

I am very grateful to Jim Belshaw for articulating yesterday what I could not:

A friend commented after the news from Nice and then the attempted Turkey coup: “The news is really all worrying”.

While I have been otherwise preoccupied, the world does seem to have become a darker place. As I write, news is breaking of the attacks in Munich. The story is not yet clear, but it adds to the gloom.

One of the points I have tried to make on this blog from time to time is that we cannot always control events, we can only control our reactions to events…

I opted for train pics instead, as you may already know. But here in The Gong Chris T and I, in the wake of the rise of The Revenant of Oz, had determined we would revisit Samaras and chow down in an act of defiance against fear and idiocy in general, and for the multicultural Australia we truly love. And so we did, more on which in a moment.

First though, it is very depressing to note the poor bloody Hazaras in Afghanistan are copping it again: At least 80 dead, 231 injured as IS claims twin suicide bombing on Hazara protest.

Meanwhile in Europe the Munich shooting is looking stranger than ever. It did occur to me yesterday that it would be odd if an Iranian would do anything Isis-sponsored – a bit like a Presbyterian Ulsterman a few years ago doing a bombing on behalf of the IRA. But how odd it has been may be seen from ABC, the London Daily Telegraph and the Herald:

The gunman who went on a rampage at a shopping centre, leaving nine people dead, had no ties to the Islamic State or other extremist groups. Instead, police believe, he was obsessed with mass killings and may have been mentally ill.

The southern German city’s police chief said investigators had found a trove of electronic data and written materials at the suspect’s home suggesting that he had extensively researched shooting sprees before he went on one of his own on Friday afternoon.

The items recovered included a book by a US academic on school shootings titled “Rampage in the Head: Why Students Kill.”…

Friday’s attack played out on the fifth anniversary of a Norwegian massacre by right-wing extremist Anders Breivik that claimed the lives of 77 people. Andrae said the anniversary “played a role” in the timing of Friday’s attack, given the killer’s apparent obsession with mass murder.

Back to our day in The Gong. To remind you, I posted on 11 July:

One resolution Chris T and I made was to return in the near future to Samaras, the lovely Shiraz no longer serving Saturday lunch. See Halal on Saturday, and revamped venue (June 2015). Why go there? Well, because the food is so good, especially the traditional Lebanese dishes. But there is also the need to do something against the worst of our politics, and against things like Wollongong’s Samaras Restaurant targeted by vandals. That was in May 2016. Chris T doesn’t read the local paper nor watch the WIN news, so he was unaware of that story, and quite shocked when I told him.

Operators of a popular Muslim-owned restaurant in Wollongong say they fear a damaging break-in at the business was targeted.

Vandals forced entry to Corrimal Street’s Samaras Restaurant overnight Wednesday and made off with a small amount of cash.

Staff arrived Thursday morning to find the restaurant deliberately flooded and four electronic tablets – used for bookings, orders and administration –submerged in the overflowing kitchen sink…

“Instead of taking the tablets and selling them – which is easy to do – they’ve actually [destroyed] them.

“Did it happen because these people are sending us a message? Did they target us? No one else was hit, that’s what I don’t understand.”

Wollongong Police are investigating the break and enter, which comes after a high-profile three weeks for Mr Nemer, a well-known pro-diversity campaigner.

He engineered the restaurant’s #illeatwithyou campaign in March 2015, when it became the target of anti-Islamic online abuse.

More recently he spoke out over a vandalism attack at the Unanderra barber shop of a friend, Bilal El Mohamad…

So yesterday we went, anticipating a choice of one of the wonderful platters, so big that we always order “for one” and share it.

Screenshot - 24_07_2016 , 8_40_05 AM

We chose the Beirut Platter. Looking at the Entrees and Side Dishes we had no problem choosing Baba Ghanoush because Samaras do it so well, but there was an item we hadn’t noticed before.

Screenshot - 24_07_2016 , 8_39_17 AM

Yes, “Grandmother’s Olives!” The lovely young woman serving us assured us they were indeed from her very own grandmother, that in fact she had herself helped harvest them at one time. They proved to be delicious, not over salty. There was an enlarged photo on the restaurant wall of said grandmother in her olive grove.

But what they must have seen, perhaps even before that young woman was born. See this photo from 1993:


Friday prayer at the Marj az-Zohour camp, south Lebanon

And this story from that time:

THE tent flap moved suddenly and a deportee in a red track suit crawled across the canvas floor towards us, a transistor radio clasped to his ear. ‘They’ve shot two policemen – two Israelis are dead,’ he shouted. In excitement, delight or despair? ‘They said our deportation was to stop violence and look what they have got – more resistance than ever.’ Word spread quickly in the spring heat that has now swamped the Palestinian encampment at Marj al-Zohour. The Israelis had sealed off the West Bank. Palestinian youths had been wounded by Israeli gunfire in Gaza. It was as if the Israeli-occupied territories lay just across the next hill; which, of course, they do.

From their front line inside Lebanon and from the melting snows high to the east on Golan, the Israelis can watch the 396 Palestinians moving between their tents, surrounded now not by frost and rock but by trees in blossom. Marj al-Zohour – in Arabic, ‘field of flowers’ – is now truly surrounded by carpets of purple and yellow blooms, the Hasbani river chuckling dark blue through its gorge below the tents. But 103 days have taken their toll….

I look back on Grandmother’s Olives now with even more wonder. Is not our world enlarged, even by a meal such as we had yesterday – and halal the lot of it too.  “Reclaiming” Australia = Impoverishing Australia, in my opinion. (See also Reclaiming Australia Persian-style in Wollongong.)

Pretty amazing person too is the owner of Samaras, Omar Nemer. See for example this 2015 story:

Wollongong locals and community leaders dined at Samara’s restaurant in the heart of the city on Tuesday for the #illeatwithyou lunch, as part of a special campaign that strives to ‘reject racism and spread love through food.’ The campaign was initiated after the Muslim-owned restaurant was subjected to racist comments on their social media page, in an attempt to encourage others to “boycott Islamic businesses.”

Samara’s owner Omar Nemer spoke out against the comments, which were mostly against the Halal food market. He explained that much misconception exists over the meaning of Halal foods. “A lot of people think that their food is going to be blessed… going against their beliefs…but Halal simply states that the product doesn’t contain any animal blood, animal fat, any alcohol and certain other ingredients that Muslim people cannot consume.”

However these negative criticisms could not stifle the strong, positive community spirit. From the Uniting Church, People Care, Lifeline, Muslims, local media, and the Police Force, it was inspiring to see such a multitude of guests united by mutual aspirations for peace and patronage…

The accompanying photo rather sums up this post:

illeatwithyou  Restaurant owner Omar Nemer and community leader Grahame Gould

And in May this year his sister posted on Facebook:

So proud of my amazing brother for all the good work he is doing in our community.

Yesterday morning I joined him at Warilla High School where he was a guest speaker talking to the students about Advocacy, and the campaigns he has been running to promote acceptance, harmony and positivity in our community.

For those of you who know Omar, you would know that all he wants to do is make a positive change in this world, and you’re doing a great job habibi 🙂

Sorry to note though that the Persian restaurant Shiraz has closed. Chris T and I happened to be going past when they were closing it down. Lovely people, lovely food. See for example On being my own great-grandpa, and Shiraz again.


For once I agree with Attorney-General George Brandis.

Attorney-General George Brandis has urged people to be careful with their language when using the word terrorism.

He defines terrorism as an act or threat of violence motivated by an ideological cause to coerce government or intimidate the public.

“If we’re going to understand this problem, we have to anatomise it correctly,” he said.

“We must be very careful in our use of language so that we don’t spray the word terrorism around too loosely.”

Senator Brandis has refrained from calling the Munich mass shooting a terrorism incident…

German authorities have categorically ruled out terrorism/Isis as relevant to the Munich horror.

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