A Melbourne billboard showing two hijab-wearing girls celebrating Australia Day has been removed after threats were directed at the advertising company.
The electronic sign featured transitioning images of Australians of different heritages celebrating the national day. One photo, of the two young girls, first shared on Friday, whipped up a frenzy among some social media users, including right-wing groups, who argued two hijab-wearing girls were not representative of Australia Day and was “politically incorrect” (sic).
The billboard was promoting the RACV Australia Day Festival in Kings Domain Gardens in central Melbourne. The original photo has been found to be an image of two Melbourne girls celebrating Australia Day 2016 at Docklands.
One Facebook user commmented: “This is f**kin shit. Take the s*** down and replace them with full blood real Aussie’s [sic] or anything Aussie related. U no people playing cricket at the beach, BBQ, thongs, beer. Anything but this… I thought Australia Day was meant to be about OUR culture like it used to b, not about Muslim people.”
Another Facebook user said the billboard indicates Australia “is now a Muslim country” and that it is directing all women to wear hijabs.
“Let’s put real Aussies on the posters wearing expected Aussie gear, not clothes dictated by men in a foreign land. Let’s get Australia back to being Australian!”
— Angela (@Angie_in_Qld) January 13, 2017
— Gabi.ai/Sir WotNot (@w0tn0t) January 13, 2017
The incident is reminiscent of a shopping mall poster for a Sydney Optus store last year that was forced to be withdrawn after threats were made against shop staff.
“Increasingly, any visible portrayal of Australian Muslims or any diversity for that matter, in connection with a public campaign is becoming the subject of backlash from small but vocal parts of the community,” Islamophobia Register president Mariam Veiszadeh told SBS.
On Tuesday, Victoria’s multicultural affairs minister Robin Scott announced the billboard had been taken down after outdoor advertising company QMS received threats.
Opponents of the image claimed it as a victory for “free speech”.
The minister said that anyone who “considers this a victory needs a refresher on the true meaning of Australia Day” and expressed his disappointment in seeing “a small minority attacking proud Australians for their love of their country”.
“[Australia Day] is about bringing people together and celebrating the diversity which makes this state and this country great,” he told AAP.
QMS declined to comment on the issue. Business Insider also contacted Scott, but has not heard back.
Comments have continued on social media after the removal of the billboard, with some saying the advertisement should never have been up in the first place.
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