• Lina Jebeile wants to break down stereotypes about Australian Muslims (Supplied)
"I want to give people the opportunity to sit down and chat to me and my family over food and just realise that we're just normal, average people going about our lives like everybody else."
By
Bianca Soldani

27 Sep 2016 - 4:54 PM  UPDATED 4 Oct 2016 - 5:43 PM

Lina Jebeile loves food. In fact, the Sydney mother-of-four has built an Instagram following of 22,000 with her mouth-wateringly good dishes and is now using her influence to fight fear-mongering.

After watching Pauline Hanson’s maiden Senate speech last week, the blogger - who goes by the name “The Lebanese Plate” - started using the hashtag #spreadhummusnothate in the hope that it would “break down barriers" and "pave the way for more conversation, understanding and new friendships”.

An Australian-born Muslim of Lebanese heritage, Ms Jebeile knows all too well what it's like to be stereotyped, and as recently as a couple of weeks ago, was told to "go back to where she came from".

She tells SBS "there's so much negativity out there at the moment in regards to the Australian Muslim population and the call to ban Muslim immigration".

After growing up not feeling like she belonged, Ms Jebeile doesn't want her children to have the same experience, and picked up the hashtag - which was first used in the US in 2014 - to quite literally spread hummus and share what it means to be a Muslim Australian.

"As uncomfortable as it might be to go up to strangers and say, 'Hey, I'm Lina, would you like some hummus?' and start a conversation, talking to people and asking questions is the only way we're going to be able to move forward," she says.

"I want to hopefully give people the opportunity to actually sit down and chat to me, to my friends and my family over food and just realise that we're just normal, average people going about our lives like everybody else.

"Who doesn't love hummus and who doesn't love the gift of food? Especially when it's good food!" she adds.

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Ms Jebeile believes that food is so much more than just sustenance and can be used, as it is in a number of cultures, to bring people together. So in the past week she's taken her hummus to her local police and fire stations, coffee shops and a nearby Holy Trinity church and has so far had a very positive response.

While some of the "far right-wing voices are becoming so loud", Ms Jebeile believes that multiculturalism truly is "the essence of Australia".

"When people ask me what I love about Australia, multiculturalism is the first thing that comes to my mind," she says, "It's so easy for us to think about things that are different about you and someone else where in reality we have so much more in common than we do differences."

Appropriately using a food analogy, she says, "we can be like a salad where you have all these different ingredients and you put them together and you've made something wonderful and tasty".

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