"One of the last Anglo holdouts in Sydney’s otherwise Middle-Eastern south-western suburb." That's how Tim Blair described the Lakemba Hotel last week
. But today, you can meet the people who work there. Bar manager Rina Bourke is half-Fijian and half Samoan. Her sister also works at the bar, and she is married to a Muslim man. Upon reading Blair's article, their first concern was that it described them as racists. They assured our reporter they were most certainly not.
“He went out for a brief wander and he came back looking very troubled,” staff member Poppy, who was quoted in Blair's column, told Crikey
. “He asked us if we’d been across the road to the Islamic bookstore.”
“As I showed him his room he asked a lot about some riots after Ramadan -- so we thought maybe he was doing some story on that. But the thing is, no one really knew what he was talking about,” she said.
Yesterday, Tim Blair told readers he was sorry. Not for his column slagging off one of Sydney's most multicultural suburbs, but for not warning any readers that conversion away from Islam would likely get them stoned. Blair appears entirely unrepentant. But we think his column was one of the worst examples of a rising tide of Islamophobic articles clogging up some parts of the media, which seek to tie what's going on is Iraq to the Muslims who either left that part of the world for a better life here, or, as is most often the case, have been Australian all their lives.
There are other, more truthful stories to tell, even right under Blair's nose. Here's one of them.