A billboard in Australia that was promoting a flag raising ceremony for Australia Day has been taken down after QMS, the company behind it, received threats. The billboard contained the image of two young Muslim girls in hijabs waving Australian flags and it caused a furor among far-right conservatives who accused those behind the billboard of being “too politically correct”.
Victoria’s cultural affairs minister, Robin Scott, announced the decision to remove the billboard. In his announcement he stated, “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. It’s very disappointing to see a small minority attacking proud Australians for their love of their country.”
The rise of violently defended attacks on diversity and multiculturalism seems to be accelerating in several places around the world. The US, UK, France, Germany, Australia are all countries where far-right conservatives seem to be gaining more support with their hateful rhetoric. But the left, unfortunately, is not helping matters either in some cases with their lack of strong criticism of certain dangerous cultural practices.
With all the threats that we face as a species, such as climate change, disease, war, and more, it becomes more and more apparent that we are going to need to cooperate and collaborate across national boundaries in order to succeed. As an atheist, I do think we will be better prepared if we, as a species, can abandon religion. But threats of violence over a billboard with two young girls in it is not the way we will move forward. I am absolutely ready to criticize Islam for its many, many faults (for example, it is not a religion of peace), but issuing violent threats over a billboard that shows two girls in hijabs helps no one.