Australia Day Muslim themed billboard removed after threats

Australia Day Muslim themed billboard removed after threats
A billboard for Australia Day, featuring two young girls in hijabs, has been taken down in Melbourne after threats were allegedly made to the media company who designed it.

According to the Victoria government, the outdoor media company QMS chose to remove it after receiving a number of unspecified threats. The advert was promoting an Australia Day festival in Kings Domain Gardens sponsored by the Royal Automobile Club of Victoria.

Images of the billboard, showing two smiling girls in hijabs in front of the Australian flag, were shared online by right-wing and nationalist groups on Friday. Users criticized the billboards for being overly politically-correct and pandering to Muslims, and called for symbols which were more characteristically “Australian.”

Users opposed to the billboard then celebrated its removal on social media.

Others however were perturbed by what they saw as anti-Muslim prejudice. 

The reaction to the billboard was also criticized by Robin Scott, the Minister for Multicultural Affairs for the state of Victoria.

“Anyone who considers this a victory needs a refresher on the true meaning of Australia Day,” Scott said on Tuesday, AAP reported. “It is about bringing people together and celebrating the diversity which makes this state and this country great.”

“It's very disappointing to see a small minority attacking proud Australians for their love of their country.”

QMS has not yet issued a statement over the billboard or the alleged threats, but the controversy recalls an incident back in 2015, when a company was forced to pull its Arabic-language adverts from a Sydney shopping center after its staff was threatened.

“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,” Mariam Veiszadeh of Islamophobia Register told news.com.au.

The Muslim themed billboard in Melbourne is not the only controversy surrounding Australia Day this year. The national holiday is also a contentious issue among Aboriginal Australians, who regard it as a celebration of their conquest and subjugation. A TV advert showing a barbeque being hosted by indigenous people being gatecrashed by British colonists and other ethnic groups has been described as “highly offensive.”