Tourists seldom find their way to Sydney's Cronulla beaches that start beside a railway station and shopping strip and extend for 5km into a wasteland of scrubby dunes.
But they are a magnet for those who live in the "Struggle Streets" of the less privileged and beachless inland suburbs of Australia's biggest city, where the summer days and nights get intolerably hot for weeks on end.
And where the population balance is tipping to Australians of Arabic or Lebanese descent, and mosques and the call of the muezzin are more apparent than spired churches, some abandoned, and church bells, now silent.
Cronulla is not only the most Anglo-Saxon by origin of any Sydney suburb but the most accessible from its poorest reaches.
It is the only beach with a suburban train station. It has large parking lots, where kids spin wheelies and drag race in old cars with giant speakers pumping out music so loud it drowns out the roar of the surf.
And Cronulla has "locals." Young surfers who resent outsiders invading "their" beaches, and their "breaks" where "dropping in" on a wave they are riding often ends in fist fights, smashed surf boards and slashed tires.
In the early 1960s, "Westies" from the city's western suburbs and locals fought pitched battles on the beaches, in brawls between hundreds of opposed groups of teenagers that flared up over the summer school holidays and would spill for kilometers up and down the sand hills and streets.
Cronulla turned nastier in 1965 with the unsolved Wanda Beach mutilation and rape murders of two western suburbs schoolgirls in one of the scores of vegetated hollows cut through the lower sand dunes that run on to the loneliest and spookiest of its beaches.
Two years later Bobby Brown, the local surfing hero who put Wanda's waves on the map, was murdered in a Cronulla pub by a rival who ripped his carotid artery out of his neck with a broken beer glass.
In 1970 more riots affected Cronulla, this time under siege from self-styled "Bankies," youngsters from the inner suburb of Bankstown which had become an enclave for immigrants from Lebanon and Egypt.
In 1981 one of the most vulgar Australian movies ever, Puberty Blues, was shot on the Cronulla beaches, documenting the degradation of two school girls seeking acceptance into the macho male world of surfing, and the undercurrent of denied homosexuality that braver sociologists have over many years dared to suggest underpins the Australian concept of "mateship" between males.
Puberty Blues failed to make the grade even as a "trash flick" but earlier this month the surfing mateship it celebrated collided with the hatred of outsiders in general and Arab Australians in particular.
Some Lebanese street gangs whose activities are of growing concern inside Muslim as well as non-Muslim communities had fought several Cronulla volunteer lifeguards and won.
Serial text messages were then received by thousands of Cronulla's sons of the surf urging them to reclaim the beach "for Australians" and bash all Arabs and "Lebs" on the following Sunday.
The rest is raw history.
Prime Minister John Howard appeared live on television claiming the riots were not proof of racism in Australia, juxtaposed with scenes of hordes of hoodlums shouting racist slogans, and pelting police and ambulances with beer bottles and bricks ripped out of garden fences while they rescued three people of Middle Eastern appearance (including one who is now believed to be of Irish descent), from what might otherwise have become a lynching.
Never before have Australians seen their police baton-whipping the retreating backsides of streets full of falling drunk adults and teenagers.
The racially and ethnically motivated violence has spread far and wide. Dozens of people have been injured, or arrested or both. A carols by candlelight service in one suburb was sprayed with bullets aimed above the singers' heads.
Convoys of Muslim youths have invaded non-Muslim neighborhoods, using megaphones, daring people to come outside while smashing their cars with crow bars, as police scramble to intercept the reported stockpiling of guns by white supremacist groups pledging retaliation.
But revulsion against "inverted patriotism" has also spread quickly through the wider Australian community.
"These stoned, drunken racist thugs wearing Australian flags are vicious fools," fumed New South Wales Premier Morris Iemma. However, Iemma faces a dilemma according to James Jupp, director of the Center for Immigration and Multicultural Studies at the Australian National University.
"The central problem of Australian multiculturalism is that it has been preached to the converted [in] ... ethnic communities, which already know that Australia is a multicultural society," Jupp said. "But the [lifestyle] of many young men of all ethnicities is outside these frameworks."
Clifton Evers, who lectures in gender studies at Sydney University, says the dominant male ego is a plank of surf culture and the riots an attempt to maintain ownership of the beach.
"Listening to the guys' chants it's clear the protest was an inversion of victimhood," Evers said.
"They kept saying: `Our world is under attack, our women need defending.' Of course, nothing of the sort was going on. The whole thing is an attempt to shore up the privileges they enjoy as gatekeepers of the beach culture," he said.
Evers says the power of Australian mateship has been poisoned by racism.
"You hate who your mates hate. These guys haven't a clue about the racists who are manipulating them. In Australia, mateship rules above all else," he said.
Including, it seems, the law.
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