Lakemba is a microcosm of the Muslim world, and the battles and contradictions that occur within. Though not immediately obvious, I sense that there's a power struggle going on in Lakemba between the old guard religious clerics who follow a hard religious line, and the new, educated and thoroughly westernised Muslims. Take the posters that litter every available wall and street sign. Amongst a collection of fiercely anti-Zionist and anti-western messages lie posters encouraging people to donate to Muslim Aid's Jogjakarta earthquake relief effort, or to the Muslim Blood Drive.
Take a look inside The Islamic Bookstore, where The International Jew (now complete with the Protocols of the Elders of Zion!) sells alongside thoughtful books on the Islamic solutions to environmental problems. (For what it's worth, my favourite item was one I ended up purchasing: a pamphlet about the Islamic opposition to mingling between men and women.) The battle between the nutters and the moderates is a close-run thing, but it is most definately a silent battle being waged on the streets of Lakemba.
Separate from the handful of distinctly Islamic institutions are a fairly typical range of restaurants, cafes, whitegoods stores and supermarkets. Most of them promote themselves as being Halal (whitegoods notwithstanding), whilst the boutiques boast a fashionable range of headscarves. Lakemba can also lay claim to a unique restaurant: the Island Dreams Cafe sells authentic Cocos Island and Christmas Island cuisine. And a damn fine Pina Colada, as well.
It would be nice for Lakemba to drop its guard a little. At present, there seems to be a simmering hostility toward outsides and a defiant streak to its character. Perhaps it's suffering from a siege mentality, which is a shame. Here's hoping the moderates can win the day.