Cen­tre of strength in the time of ri­ots

Tem­ple of Dreams 8.30pm, SBS

The Weekend Australian - Review - - Tv -

IT is Oc­to­ber 2005. We are inside an old Ma­sonic Hall in south­west Syd­ney that has been rented by a group led by thir­tysome­thing mo­tor me­chanic and small busi­ness­man Fadi Ab­dul Rah­man.

The hall is be­ing run as a gym and box­ing academy to help keep young Le­banese- Aus­tralian Mus­lims away from drugs, thug­gery and petty crime. Fadi and his friends have been down that path and know it leads nowhere.

Then it is De­cem­ber 2005. Fu­elled by hys­ter­i­cal me­dia re­ports, fren­zied anti- Mus­lim ri­ots break out at Cronulla beach on a swel­ter­ing Sun­day af­ter­noon. Th­ese are swiftly fol­lowed by vi­cious reprisals by Mus­lims. It is one of the low­est points in this coun­try’s his­tory and, con­trary to as­ser­tions by the con­ser­va­tive com­men­tariat at the time, clearly based on race, the cul­mi­na­tion of four years of anti- Mus­lim rhetoric since 9/ 11.

The sight of one hoon loom­ing up at the cam­era, proudly bran­dish­ing his blood- smeared fin­gers and shout­ing ‘‘ F . . k the Lebs’’, is dis­turb­ing proof of the flimsy foun­da­tion on which our claim to civil­i­sa­tion rests. It’s a ges­ture that goes all the way back to Lamb­ing Flat, ex­cept then he would have been bran­dish­ing a pig­tail torn from a Chi­nese miner’s head.

As for the reprisals, Rah­man says, ‘‘ Th­ese young­sters were scared. They said: ‘ If we sit back and do noth­ing, then they’re go­ing to step all over us. They’re go­ing to round us up like a herd of an­i­mals and throw us out of the coun­try.’ This is en­graved in our hearts. It is some­thing we’ll never for­get about.’’

As this su­perb and timely film by vet­eran doc­u­men­tary- maker Tom Zubrycki demon­strates, Rah­man’s opin­ion is worth lis­ten­ing to be­cause he knows what he’s talk­ing about.

Tem­ple of Dreams tracks Rah­man and his col­leagues as they strug­gle to keep the cen­tre open in the face of Auburn Coun­cil’s de­ter­mi­na­tion to close it, and or­gan­ise a con­fer­ence to en­able young peo­ple to ven­ti­late is­sues aris­ing from the ri­ots. It gives a rare, can­did in­sight into Syd­ney’s Mus­lim mi­nor­ity.

When coun­cil de­mands a de­vel­op­ment ap­pli­ca­tion, Rah­man feels out of his depth and calls in the real stars of this film, three young women — Alyah, a bank man­ager; Amna, a trainee teacher; and Zouhour, a fourth- year law stu­dent — all of whom wear head­scarves and none of whom live up to the stereo­type of re­pressed fe­males. They are more than a match for Rah­man and soon com­man­deer a space as a ‘‘ chill- out’’ room for women. De­spite their de­mure head­scarves, their grasp of the scat­o­log­i­cal ver­nac­u­lar can be ex­plo­sive. They are vi­brant, vi­va­cious women and, like Rah­man, Aus­tralians of whom we can all be proud.

Mark But­ler

Strug­gle for calm: Fadi Ab­dul Rah­man in Tem­ple of Dreams

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Australia

© PressReader. All rights reserved.