Open day at Sunshine Mosque, 618 Ballarat Road, Sunshine. Phone: 9363 8245
Consider The Sauce would like to believe our dismay and disgust at the recent weeks’ deliberately inflamed anti-Muslim hysteria is universal across the land.
Sadly, though, having read much in the press of all kinds, on social media and various websites – luckily I am pretty much completely out of the loop when it comes to talkback radio – I know that is simply not the case.
But while these events have been unfolding, a thought bubbled up: “Why have I never been to a mosque?”
At very much the same time, the Cyprus Turkish Community of Victoria started publicising its “everyone welcome” open day – and we are only too happy to accept the invitation.
Predictably and joyfully, our visit is a whole lot of fun, full of friendly people with big smiles.
And, of course, we have our fill of the food on hand.
The cheese-and-spinach gozleme I enjoy is as good as it gets – hot of the hot plate, fresh and wonderful.
But the coolest event of the day has an unexpectedly personal note …
We have been on the mosque grounds just a matter of minutes when I run into my Star Weekly colleague Yasemin.
I’m surprised to see her, and she I.
But we shouldn’t be … after all, I did know she’s a local; and she, in turn, knows of my foodie/multicultural adventurer persona.
Yasemin is very busy selling tickets for the kebab operation but we nevertheless squeeze in some conversation.
For me, this is the western suburbs one-degree of separation at splendid work and a valued opportunity to see a colleague with whom I have in the past year finessed numerous stories as something other than a reporter to my sub-editor.
And for Yasemin, I hope (!), it’s a chance to see me as something other than a cranky, demanding, nitpicking pedant – perhaps as an openminded foodie blogger with untold curiosity and as a father.
That latter description being, you’ll be unsurprised to learn, very much how I see and define myself these days.
This is Yasemin’s mosque.
I ask her if she pretty much grew up here.
Her answer is: “Yes!”
After my savory appetite has been satisfied, I enjoy a super strong and sweet Turkish coffee with a deep-fried dessert called sam isi.
It’s filo pastry encasing semolina, and like so many treasured desserts from that part of the world, is sweet without being overly so.
I stop and have a yarn with Tammy of Stylish Sisters.
Tammy refers to herself as a “convert”, her husband being Somalian.
And, yes, she knows all about our favourite Union Road destination.
I love the name of her business – in my opinion, which in this context is worth no doubt very, very little – many of the “sisters” do indeed have style to burn.
Eventually, the presence at the event of a flagrantly mustachioed dude with a busy camera having been noted, Ekrem Fuldagli introduces himself to us.
Ekrem is the chairman of the Cyprus Turkish Islamic Community of Victoria.
It’s a busy day for a busy man, but he makes time to escort us into the mosque proper and patiently answer my questions.
Ekrem has been in the chairman role for about a year.
He tells me it’s a challenging but rewarding role, involving as it does issues and projects both within the mosque community and its interactions with the wider world.
He describes the mosque community as very mainstream and relationships with the neighbours as just fine
The domed mosque interior itself is truly beautiful and, yes, it has what I would call a “spiritual” vibe.
Ekrem tells me the dome itself has no religious significance.
Rather it is all about acoustics and the oration requirements of the pre-electricity and pre-amplification times.
Sadly, other commitments mean we are unable to linger for the scheduled Q&A session to which I have been eagerly looking.
Maybe next time!