Asign on the counter top of the small store reads “For Marriage Services call Sheikh Khaled.” We ask where we can find the local sheikh and we are pointed towards a man who is currently tossing a piece of dough into the air and then catches it with a flourish and a wink. “This is Lebanese pizza, manoush – the most popular pizza in the world,” cries the sheikh as he generously sprinkles it with cheese. “This could feed a very fat person,” he laughs. Sheikh Khaled was busy running his successful bakery where he pioneered the first manoush in the area, when controversy hit the community. In 2006, the controversial Muslim cleric Sheikh Hilaly, the former Imam at Lakemba mosque, caused outrage when he compared immodestly dressed women to uncovered meat during a sermon. The comments upset Khaled. He felt many in Australia were not understanding the true meaning of Islam while trouble-makers like Sheikh Hilal were receiving all the media attention. He decided to do something about it. He decided to become a Sheikh. He began to pursue Islamic Studies at Al Imam Al-Ouzai University in Lebanon to counteract these ideas of extremism and to teach the honour behind the words offered in the Koran. His shop is now a hybrid mixture of customers clamouring for half meat half cheese manoush along with those seeking guidance and marriage counselling. Khaled Saj is a practising marriage celebrant: [email protected]
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