As every Australian knows, all it takes is a barbeque to shatter cultural barriers. Usually.
For what may have been the earliest multicultural festival in Perth, in May 1897 adverts in the local rags announced the ‘Mohammedan Christmas’, Bakreed.*
A camel would be sacrificed at the home of Ahmed Khan, on Vincent Street, Highgate. A camel selected from Ahmed’s personal herd as being the very best.
To make it tempting for the non-Muslims, free camel burgers were on offer for anyone who showed up.
Some fifty members of Perth’s Muslim community arrived, together with the media and a number of interested onlookers.
At 10 o’clock in the morning, Ahmed and his comrades started to pray in Arabic. After the traditional prayers, Mr Khan exclaimed Bismillah, followed by Allahu Akbar as he drew the knife across the hapless camel’s neck. Then the knife was ritually inserted into the beast in three places.
With the formal proceedings out of the way, an experienced butcher cut up the carcase so the barbeque could get going.
Unfortunately for Mr Khan, the westerners turned up their noses at the free barbie, preferring just to watch their Muslim neighbours tuck in. Was it the lack of beer? Or the lack of tomato sauce? Either way, not one unbeliever was willing to try something new.
One journalist was repeatedly pressed to give the burgers a go, but he announced he was “sufficiently bigoted in his tastes” and would not eat anything but the traditional cow. Rudely, after the ceremony, the hack went straight to a restaurant to get a steak.
Despite this clash of tastes, multiculturalism was alive and well 120 years ago, and no one was holding government inquiries into halal labelling.
*Bakri-Id (Eid-al-Adha), to be celebrated in September this year.