Communities come together at Ramadan night markets but feel left out of politics

As the election campaign wraps up, Australia’s Muslim community is marking the holy month of Ramadan - fasting during the day and feasting at night.

In Lakemba, one of Sydney’s most multicultural suburbs, vendors line the roads, making street food from all over the world at the Ramadan Night Markets.

Hundreds of visitors flock here each night to explore the options, find out more about a culture different to their own, and, for Muslims, break their fast.

Nawaf Refai sells American barbeque food at the markets.

Among the stalls is Two Smokin’ Arabs, where Nawaf Refai sells American barbeque food.

He opened the stall for Ramadan last year, hoping to get his community to try something new.

“We were basically just trying to get it off the ground,” Mr Refai tells SBS News. 

"You've got your hit and misses with your community because they’ve never seen it before. They've never tasted American barbecue before, so I thought, bring it in and see how they go. 

“And actually they've taken it on pretty well."

Mr Refai said while the community has taken a liking to his smoked barbeque food now, it wasn’t easy.

“We opened last Ramadan just to bring it out and let people know that we’re here, and to be honest it wasn’t a success,” he said.

“Not everything is a success when you open up.”

But he persevered and is happy with his success. 


Mr Refai’s positivity doesn’t carry through to politics though, even so close to this weekend’s election.  

He said he's tired of the campaign, and can't see much difference between the two major parties.

“At the end of the day, to be honest, I think they’re both the same,” he said.

"You put one person in, they're probably going to be a little bit better, or someone is going to be a little bit worse.”

“But at the end of the day, they're not out for the battlers like us and the small business owners. 

“They say they are, but I don't think they are. You’ve got Labor saying that they’re for the ‘little man’ then Liberal comes in and says they’re for the ‘little man’.

“But no one is for anyone.”

They're not out for the battlers like us and the small business owners.

- Nawaf Refai, Street food vendor

Mr Refai says he is frustrated with watching leaders Scott Morrison and Bill Shorten attack each other throughout the campaign.

“They’re attacking each other instead of fixing problems.” 

He’s not alone in his disenchantment.

Source: SBS News

This year is Sam Nabhan’s third Ramadan market with his food truck Mr Kernel.

He says the great atmosphere of the market keeps bringing him back.

"Every year the vibe just keeps growing,” he said.

“It's an amazing community event, well organised."

While his fellow stallholders don’t think either major party is going to make a difference to their businesses, Mr Nabhan said he thinks they deserve more support.

“In terms of being a business owner I think the most important issue is getting the support we need from government,” he said.

Lakemba is in the electorate of Watson, which has been held by Labor MP Tony Burke since 2004.

Mr Nabhan says he's happy with the job Mr Burke has done as the local member.

"I'm not really into politics, but our local member does a great job and that’s the Labor party,” he said.

“It’s been passed from generations in my family to go Labor, so I'll be going that way, that's for sure.”

Source: SBS News

But Amatcha Khan, who runs the Sunshine Sushi stall, isn’t convinced that either major party's election promises will have any substantial effect on him. 

"I don't see any effects affecting small business like ours,” he said.

Mr Khan is from Thailand, and it's his first year at the Ramadan market after setting up his shop just six months ago.

As well as sushi, his stall serves up Thai and Pakistani food.  

“It’s amazing. I like the atmosphere here,” Mr Khan said.

Mr Refai said no matter who wins the election what’s needed is more stability and to fix what he called a negative culture in parliament. 

“There’s a lot of racism in parliament, and there’s no censorship on what they can or can’t say,” he said.

“We just need smarter people in parliament. I remember Bob Hawke days, then Paul Keating and then John Howard, and they were good.”

Published 17 May 2019 at 7:05am
By Keira Jenkins