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"Only terrorists and extremists will gain from billboard outcry" - Muslim Association

The campaign aims to restore this image to billboards around Australia. Source: Go Fund Me / Creative Edge

Speaking to SBS Arabic24, Galila Abdelsalam of the Islamic Women’s Association of Queensland has criticised those who attacked an Australia Day billboard in Melbourne featuring two young girls wearing hijabs.

The controversial billboard promoting an Australian Day event in Melbourne was taken down after a backlash on social media, driven by far-right groups. 

The billboard, featuring two women wearing hijabs, caused fierce debate online with some outraged that the women were representing Australia.

Speaking to SBS Arabic24, Galila Abdelsalam from the Islamic Women’s Association of Queensland criticised those who attacked the billboard.

"This gives a chance to terrorists to brainwash our young by claiming Muslim women are oppressed in this country," warned Mrs Abdelsalam.

"Only terrorists and extremists will gain from this incident."

Ms Abdelsalam explained that Muslim women are an integral part of the Australian society and it's history and they, like others play a vital role in the advancement of the country.

Hijab billboard
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Victorian Minister for Multicultural Affairs Robin Scott said the government's external partner QMS hosted the campaign and independently chose to remove it due to a number of threats that were received.

"While the ads have since been removed, anyone who considers this a victory needs a refresher on the true meaning of Australia Day," said Mr Scott.

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

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Mrs Abdelsalam added that the removal of the ad is a defeat to multiculturalism and efforts to promote social cohesion. 

"It gives a chance for extremists to put pressure on government and companies to make their voice heard although they don’t represent the majority," she said.

This incident follows a similar backlash after Target used a Hijab-wearing mother as a model in one of its catalogues.

Reflecting on these stories, Mrs Abdelsalam said women are usually the easiest target for attacks because of their hijabs, "we are very visible, not like Muslim men, this subjects us to most of the discrimination."

Yesterday crowd-funding campaign to restore the billboard took off, surpassing it's original target of $50,000 within the first seven hours. Having now raised over $127,000 in 24 hours, the organisers of the Go Fund Me campaign, Creative Edge, have now raised that target to $200,000 in the hopes of funding multiple billboards and full-page newspaper ads around the country. 

The head of the Islamic Women’s Association of Queensland said while the majority of Australians help and support Muslims, she says the federal government does not do enough to stop discrimination against Muslim women especially after the rise of Pauline Hanson’s One Nation.

Listen to the full interview (in Arabic) with Galila Abdelsalam on SBS Arabic24 below: