If we’ve learnt anything from News Corp it’s that sending a white person to an Islamic suburb or cultural event is the best way to practice investigative journalism. Hankering for the truth – and a halal snack pack – Michael Brull headed out to the Eid Show.
Anyone who has picked up a Murdoch newspaper, or listened to a speech by a certain political party would know by now that Muslims are scary. As the Queensland State Director of One Nation in 2011 warned, “Muslims have their own religion, they have their own mosques, they have their own sharia law, they have their own Bible, the Qur’an. Which is, uh, really different than what we do.”
To learn more about our terrifying fellow citizens, I decided to investigate with all the rigour of Murdoch blogger Tim Blair. Blair famously broke new ground in investigative journalism a few years ago with his trip to Lakemba. Among his important discoveries were the existence of a pub, and his exposé on the crudely Islamified Lakemba mannequin. Daunted by this masterwork, I knew that for my journey to succeed, I would need to plan carefully if I was going to expose Islam’s deepest secrets in Australia.
First I learned from Sharri Markson the art of going undercover. Markson showed that by dressing like an ordinary person, she could infiltrate journalism courses, and expose the lecturers who had reservations about Rupert Murdoch.
Combining Blair’s Lakemba trip, and Markson’s mastery of disguise, I decided to crudely Islamify myself. Fortunately, on the day of my top secret journalism adventure, I hadn’t shaved for a few days, and had all the stubble a Lakemba mannequin could dream of.
On Sunday, I went to the heart of Islam in Australia, Bankstown. Blair had ventured to Lakemba, and now Bankstown was crying out for its exposé. While the cowardly mainstream media was afraid to show Islam for what it really was, I was going to shine a light where none had ventured before. Armed with my disguise and a passion for truth, I ventured out to a little known event called the Eid Show.
The Eid Show
One of the most fundamental religious obligations for Muslims is that they fast for the month of Ramadan. Once the fast is over, Muslims celebrate with Eid al Fitr (learn how to pronounce it here – the important part is that it is “eed”, not “aid”). In Australia, there are several Eid festivals. I decided to go undercover to this one, the Annual Islamic Eid Show in Sydney. I asked them how much it costs on Facebook, and they almost immediately got back to me. Entry is free. There is parking for $10, or free street parking nearby. Rides cost between $5-$10.
I drove to the show. When I spoke to the first parking guy, he greeted me with “as-salamu alaikum bro”, and asked for the parking money. Excited by the assumption that I’m Muslim, I made the rookie mistake of repeating back “assalamu alaikum”. I had blown my cover (you’re supposed to reply “walaykum as’salam”; apologies to Arab speakers for my transliteration). I cursed myself when I realised my mistake, but he seemed too busy to notice or care.
The show is at Bankstown Showground. Most of the people in attendance are families – parents wheeling along kids in prams, or dragging along older kids. People come from various backgrounds. Some were east Asian, some were South Asian, some looked Arab, some looked white. Many wore hijabs, some had impressively lush beards (and weren’t hipsters). A few wore the niqab. The atmosphere was generally warm and pleasant. It was busy, but generally not packed.
Attendees are asked to “respect Islamic dress and behaviour”. I suspect the former means to dress conservatively, and the latter means don’t bring alcohol. As it is cold, and most people come with their family, it seems these were mostly followed naturally.
After walking from the car park, I tour the show. There are lots of stalls, rides for children, about five rides for adults, games, a food court, and a market. I don’t like markets, but decide for my undercover journalism to have a look. They sell scarves, trinkets, bags, something to do with photography, a live Arabic calligrapher and more. One guy has a paintball stall. On my way to the market, I passed one stall in particular that caught my eye. It asked whether god existed. Strangely, there was nothing under the stall, and no one there. I was a bit puzzled. I wait around for a bit, ready to argue. The other side doesn’t show up. I wonder if it was a ploy to make atheists confused.
I make my way to the food court again. I notice a tray with meat and chips in it. Could it be? Though this may shock some of my readers, I had not yet tried a Halal Snack Pack. I eagerly wait in line. A young man who I let ahead of me because of self-doubt apologises, and tells me that I was in front of him. People at the Eid Show are strangely polite. Not in an obeying formal rules of etiquette kind of way. More like a family kind of way – a warm and friendly indifference. Accidental bumps are responded to with profuse apologies like they are in Canada. I wonder if this is connected to my brilliant disguise.
I collect my HSP and sit down with a family of strangers to enjoy my meal. The family squabbles – the boy is sooking about something or other. Before eating, I take a picture of my HSP. I don’t think I’ve ever taken a picture of my food before, excepting things I’ve baked. The boy looks at me. He may not be used to hipster rituals. I hurriedly take the picture, winding up with blurry HSP proof.
For those who haven’t tried them, the HSPs on offer were served in cardboard trays. They consisted of chips on the bottom, and some variety of meat on top. I had chicken, and served my own BBQ sauce on top, and finally sprinkled some salt. It was delicious, though I had to use a knife and fork.
I walk past the does-god-exist stall again. Again, no one is there, and I remain puzzled, anxiously trying to figure out the ironic angle I haven’t gotten. I check out the rides. A few might alarm Tim Blair. One is crudely Islamified. As I understand it from the signs, the rides are loaned from an external company. They bring them in for the show, and some of the background paintings are perhaps unorthodox for family events. The paintings feature curvy women clad in tight clothing. In one, a woman appears to be topless. Masking tape was in place of her breasts. I decided against taking a picture from fear Blair would somehow take advantage of it. Yet I suspect the Easter Show might also be reluctant to feature paintings of topless women.
After my delicious HSP, I wanted a decent interval before going on any rides. As a grown up, it doesn’t matter that I’m short, because I’m still tall enough to go on every damn ride, which is quite satisfying. One ride had Islamic music, which struck me as a bit odd, and was a bit anomalous. The others seem to have pop music.
I go on two rides. One is a warm up – let’s say, moderately scary. I scream for most of it. Perhaps more than the eight-year-old girl next to me. Far more than the grown man next to me, who lets out a few “woos” as we go.
I compose myself, and climb aboard ride two. It spins us around in a circle, and while doing so, spins our chairs around.
Though an atheist, my screams were decidedly non-secular. Other than inarticulate screaming, I repeatedly yelled “oh my god” and “Jesus Christ”. On ride two, I was opposite a hijabi girl who I would guess to be around 14. She didn’t really scream at all. In fact, she rolled her eyes at me a few times, and smirked at my screaming.
I could claim this is a metaphor for the war on terror. That white people invade Muslim countries, kill hundreds of thousands of Muslims, and then we’re the terrified ones. But really, I just went to Eid Show because it sounded fun and I’d never been to one.
I’m not Christian, but as a kid I went to the Easter Show. It is super expensive – for an adult to go, it costs $40.50 just to get in. The average person spends $113 there, and a family of four can expect a bill of $450. Aside from entrance, there’s parking, the cost of rides, tickets, kids whinging about showbags, the insane crowds around the showbag stalls and more. Eid Show has free entry. Parking isn’t too expensive, and rides are okay too. Deals can make it cheaper. Eid Show is smaller than the Easter Show, but it’s a lot more affordable, doesn’t have huge crowds, has a pleasant atmosphere, and delicious food.
Anyway, I spent a terrifying day surrounded by Muslims. They were pretty tough though. Some would say extremely tough. Though surrounded by these extremists, I didn’t uncover the secret of Islam, because there’s no such thing. If you want to learn about Islam, visit a mosque, talk to a Muslim, or buy a book. And if you want to go to a fun festival which is a lot cheaper than the Easter Show, start planning for next year’s Eid early.
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