Alex, the 30 year old Greek-Australian boy, is handed a couple of books by his friend. Islam for Dummies is one title. A Qur’an translation is the other. They head into Alex’s parents’ house. Dinner is served and Alex’s father notices the books. In fury, he asks: “Who brought these mussalmanou book here?”
Was Alex’s friend recruiting for ISIL? We know similar books were packed by some Sydney boys who headed off to join the new caliphate. We also know that their (perhaps) equal and opposite, far-Right politicians like Geert Wilders and the newly formed Australian Liberty Alliance (ALA) which he recently launched in Perth, sound like dummies when they talk simplistically about the 14 centuries of theology, law, spirituality, philosophy, art, literature, civilisation, tradition etc etc known as “Islam”.
Tahir Abbas recently wrote for the 2015 Routledge Handbook on Islam in the West that a key aspect of phobia of Muslims is the idea that “that Muslims are monolithic, monocultural, and in many ways culturally, intellectually, and emotionally the opposite of the European self”. Or to quote ALA co-founder Debbie Robinson: “Islam is a problem … Why is Mr Wilders surrounded by 24-hour security? It is because the Islamic community have placed fatwas on his head because you cannot speak out against Islam. We have a problem with the Islamic community that we do not have with any other group.”
But if the comedic drama of Alex & Eve, directed by Peter Andriikis, is anything to go by, Hellenophobia is alive and well in Aussie Lebanese Muslim circles. As Islamophobia is among Greek Aussies. Which might explain why Eve, the Lebanese-Muslim lawyer, and Alex, the Greek Maths teacher, are finding it so hard to marry without causing their drama king and queen parents to die of cultural cardiac arrest.
This kind of intermarriage caper is now common among Greeks, though Fairfax film critic Paul Byrnes wonders: “Whether Muslim Australians will find it so, I don’t know”. You should get out more, Paul. I know plenty of Muslim girls, Lebanese and otherwise, who’ve married outside cultural and religious boundaries. Some faced parental backlash from parents and/or in-laws. Some guys recited the shahada sentence in Arabic once and then forgot all about religion. Others took on the religion wholeheartedly. Still others just remained as they were. Once the kiddies popped out, all cultural sins were forgiven.
Some years back I walked into the Imam Ali mosque in Lakemba. A young Anglo-looking bloke nervously sat up the front. The Sheikh was muttering some Arabic prayers into his ears. I asked someone what was going on.
“The sheikh is administering the shahada to this new brother before performing his marriage.”
“Gosh, who is the girl?”
“The Sheikh’s daughter. They met at Uni.”
If only the parents of Eve and Alex could watch this serene atmosphere instead of making so much comedy for us. Racism hurts a lot but it’s also fun to laugh at. The ALA should get used to it.