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Spreading hummus over hate

With her appetising, perfectly refined Lebanese and Mediterranean dishes, and an Instagram account with over twenty thousand followers, it’s no wonder that Lina Jebeile is the hottest thing in the Australian culinary industry right now.

But Jebeile isn’t just your average foodie blogger. This mother of four is mixing food and social justice by launching her “Spread hummus not hate” campaign. It’s her response to the recent rise of Islamophobia and what she calls “fear mongering against multiculturalism.”

Jebeile, who goes by the Instagram name “The Lebanese Plate”, is shocked by the divisive rhetoric spreading in Australian public debate today.

“I hate that idea of being tolerant. I don’t want to be tolerated I want to be accepted. I don’t want to be like the next person, I want to be who I am. I want to be what makes me… me."

– Lina Jebeile. The Lebanese Plate

“Mutual respect and understanding. For me that is the essence of what I’m doing. There is so much misinformation and fear mongering in the media and amongst some politicians, so I wanted to do something about it,” Jebeile told The Point Magazine

“Two of my older daughters wear the hijab, and for me it’s important to know that my kids are going to be living in a society where they are not judged based on their religious beliefs and to be able to do what they want without worrying that is someone else is going to judge them.”

Jebeile said her campaign encourages people to spread love, accept diversity and overcome division.

She donates containers of her home-made hummus to events that promote community cohesion, multiculturalism and acceptance. She also distributes free samples to members of the public, in the hope of establishing positive relationships. Even though there’s no monetary gain, Jebeile believes the reward in seeing people talk about difficult diversity issues is enough. 

 “I think as a society, as a Muslim or non-Muslim, we’re not going to move forward if we don’t have proper face-to-face conversations together. You might be interested and curious and have questions and I wanted to give people an opportunity to be able to ask those questions. It doesn’t need to be formal or organised by government. So I thought, unless we’re sitting together over hummus or coffee and just have a conversation, maybe something good can come out of it.” 

Lina Jebeile

Jebeile said the campaign is not political, nor is it a religious attempt to convert anyone. She simply wants to create a platform for genuine conversation.

“Through food you can build friendships and connections. I don’t want people to think of this campaign as a religious or political movement. I don’t need to believe in what you believe in but we can still respect each other and have that friendship.”

Despite her success online, Jebeile knew the hashtag #SpreadHummusNotHate needed a face-to-face element.

“I started to think about how hashtags are used: some go viral some don’t. It’s good in a way because it gets the word out there, but it doesn’t help in the real world. By taking it offline we can have real and proper conversations beyond a computer or phone screen and plus you get to have delicious hummus.”

“I think there’s a genuine fear that’s erupted and that fear has come from not knowing about Muslims or Islam and that’s unfortunate. It’s not that they hate Muslims as such, it’s just that they have never had the opportunity to sit with a Muslim. In their mind, it’s just ISIS and terrorists, and violence, and this gives them a chance to ask the tough and personal questions in a respectful way.”

Jebeile said she hopes that Australia moves beyond tolerance into something more genuine, like acceptance.

“I hate that idea of being tolerant. I don’t want to be tolerated I want to be accepted. I don’t want to be like the next person, I want to be who I am. I want to be what makes me… me. I think it’s important that people remember if we’re all acting in the confines of the law it’s okay to be different…. It’s beautiful to be different. Don’t take snippets of what you see on media and social media and just run with that, Muslims are like everyone else.”

Although most the feedback has been positive, Jebeile said she does experience aggression from some individuals, particularly online.

“I tend to ignore it and sometimes I might make one comment and if that doesn’t send them away I just block them. They try to intimidate and make themselves feel powerful. One guy on twitter said to me ‘I’m sick of you and your Lebanese food’ and I tend to be sarcastic sometimes so said to him, ‘You keep talking while I enjoy my Lebanese breakfast banquet.’”

Jebeile hopes the campaign will open opportunities to begin discussions about acceptance.

“With this campaign I want to gift those people the opportunity to meet a Muslim, an average everyday Muslim like me to see what the majority of Muslims are like.”

For more information on the #SpreadHummusNotHate campaign and for recipes head to www.thelebaneseplate.com

Instagram @TheLebanesePlate

The Point

With her appetising, perfectly refined Lebanese and Mediterranean dishes, and an Instagram account with over twenty thousand followers, it’s no wonder that Lina Jebeile is the hottest thing in the Australian culinary industry right now.

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