Campaign launches to restore the Australia Day hijab billboard

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

A campaign to return the image of two girls wearing hijabs to billboards launched on Wednesday morning, but not all Muslim community members are supportive.

A crowd-funding campaign to restore a billboard featuring an image of two young girls in headscarves has taken off, receiving more than $6,000 in donations each hour after first launching.

In around three hours, the campaign reached its original goal of $20,000.

Launched late Wednesday morning Sydney time, the campaign aims to feature the girls in billboard and print advertisements after a previous billboard in Victoria was taken down following complaints that the girls wore hijabs.

Dee Madigan, executive creative director of Campaign Edge, the agency behind the campaign, told SBS she was surprised by the campaign’s success.

“I’m blown away and very optimistic about Australia when things like this happen,” she said.

Ms Madigan told SBS she was angry when she heard the media company responsible for placing the original ad had caved to public pressure.

“You have these people complaining that Muslim’s don’t assimilate and here you’ve literally got a photo of Muslims celebrating Australia Day – you just can’t win.”

The billboard represented a range of different cultures celebrating Australia Day, "but of course the ones they complain about are the Muslims”.

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Silma Ihram of the Australian Women's Muslim Association told SBS she felt very happy to hear the campaign had been doing well.

While we live in a world "that is showing increasing intolerance to millions of survivors of war and chaos," she said, "I'm encouraged by the fact that there has been a push back."

"It is very gratifying that Australia is the country that is championing a more inclusive, integrated and ethical approach."

Creative Edge told SBS it placed $100 behind a sponsored social media post on their page, but only $15 was spent by the time the campaign went viral.

“The original target was $20,000 but we’ve changed that,” Dee Madigan said.

“With $50,000 we can hopefully get a billboard in every state.”

Creative Edge said it sought the approval of the girls’ family before launching the campaign.

Donations above the $50,000 target will be donated to the Asylum Seeker Resource Centre, the company added.

Not all Muslims are on board

A Facebook page named 'Muslims say no to Australia Day - Invasion Day - Billboard' published a post critical of the push to reinstate the billboard.

It said the billboard's message "explicitly" participates in a narrative that erases Australia's history.

"The billboard is legitimising an interpretation of this nation's history that denies the experiences of its Indigenous communities and their ongoing struggles around this day."

Many Indigenous Australians identify Australia Day, held every January 26, as Invasion Day, or the day that the British First Fleet arrived and took over the land Indigenous people had occupied for more than 40,000 years.

The page added that the billboard further entrenched racism and Islamophobia into Australian society.

"We ask that the crowdfunding stops because it doesn't represent what many Muslims want.

"Muslims have no moral or political ground to stand against Islamophobia if we get behind campaigns that are essentially settler colonial claims on land, bodies and historical memory." 

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