Wollongong’s #illeatwithyou hashtag aims to eradicate Islamophobia


Meal mates: Restaurant owner Omar Nemer and community leader Grahame Gould are promoting tolerance through eating. Picture: Robert Peet

By BREE FULLER, source:

Wollongong restaurant Samaras has hit back against calls to “boycott Islamic businesses” by launching an #illeatwithyou hashtag campaign to promote acceptance of different cultures and religions.

Restaurant owner Omar Nemer developed the idea after the Corrimal Street eatery was targeted by anti-Islamic abuse on social media, including criticisms of its halal-certified products.

Following an outpouring of support from the Illawarra community, Mr Nemer is asking diners to show solidarity by extending that same appreciation of multicultural cuisine to people of all backgrounds.

“The #illeatwithyou hashtag is about getting people to really think about and appreciate multiculturalism in the community, and sharing a love of food is a great way to do that,” he said.

“I want it to show that we’re just people offering foods from all over the world, that we’re all human and that we all deserve to be judged for who we are and our actions, not the actions of others.”

Mr Nemer’s concept pays tribute to the #illridewithyou hashtag campaign that swept Australia after the Martin Place siege, rejecting anti-Muslim sentiment within the community.

He said he has been overwhelmed by the support he and his family has received since he took to Facebook to defend Samaras from racist abuse.

Among his supporters is community leader Grahame Gould, who is urging other Illawarra residents, business people and prominent figures to show zero tolerance for racism by attending an #illeatwithyou lunch at Samaras on Wednesday.

“I want to stop racist boycotts in their tracks; I want to show zero tolerance for that attitude within the community,” Mr Gould said. “It’s about fairness to individuals and giving people a fair go, which is a core Australian ideology.

“The Illawarra is becoming a region that has great diversity and … that is an important part of us having a great life, a vibrant community and a successful future.”

If the #illeatwithyou campaign succeeds, Mr Nemer hopes to create a larger National Appreciation Day to promote regional multiculturalism.