Australia Day billboard with hijabs removed in Melbourne


An Australia Day billboard featuring two women in hijabs has been taken down after sparking a backlash on social media.

An Australia Day billboard featuring two women wearing hijabs has been removed from a site in Melbourne after threats were made to the company behind it.

While the digital sign featured rolling images of people from various cultural backgrounds, one picture of two Muslim women in front of the Australian flag sparked furious debate among social media users.

Hundreds of people criticised the image for being too politically correct or not a true reflection of Australia Day.

'The large billboard, hosted by outdoor media company QMS, was used to promote an RACV-sponsored festival in Kings Domain Gardens next week and also included Victoria's official government and Australia Day logos.

Victoria's Multicultural Affairs Minister Robin Scott says QMS independently chose to take it down due to a number of threats, but "anyone who considers this a victory needs a refresher on the true meaning of Australia Day".

"It is about bringing people together and celebrating the diversity which makes this state and this country great," Mr Scott said.

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

QMS declined to comment on the threats received.

Greens leader Senator Richard Di Natale said in a statement he was "absolutely disgusted to hear that an Islamophobic campaign aimed at pressuring the company behind this billboard to take it down has been successful”.

"We must stand against racial hatred wherever we encounter it, and stand with those communities suffering from its vile effects,” he said.

Islamophobia Register president Mariam Veiszadeh told SBS News the reaction against the billboard was part of a growing trend.

"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," she said.

"Last year Optus was forced to withdraw advertisements in Arabic from some of its stores because of a similar backlash and threats to staff, whom ignorantly conflated the Arabic language with Islam and Muslims."

Outrage over the sign, erected alongside a freeway interchange between Peninsula Link and Connect East at Cranbourne, began on Friday when it was shared on Facebook by a number of far-right groups including the United Patriots Front.

The backlash continued on Monday, with thousands of people sharing the image of the women in hijabs.

"This isn't a reflection of Australia Day, are we losing our own culture to be politically correct??," Sydney woman Liz Parker wrote on Facebook.

But not everyone was critical.

Gina Rose posted: "We are a multicultural nation, if you have a problem with that, maybe you should leave."

The RACV said the billboard was part of a broader Victorian government campaign to promote Australia Day.

"RACV is proud to be the major supporter of the Victorian government's popular Australia Day Festival, which celebrates everything that makes our country great," it said in a statement.

Source AAP, SBS

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