IDENTITY CRISIS — Australia Day billboard featuring girls in hijabs causes controversy

I am not Australian. I cannot begin to lecture anyone about what Australian culture and values are. To me, Australia is embodied by funny videos of kangaroos punching each other out, Paul Hogan flashing punks his big knife, and pictures of the kind of scenery I sometimes think about during North American winters when I am tossing snow across the lawn with a shovel and cursing the snowplow as it goes by and pushes more of that white shit into my driveway entrance.

It would seem, though, that Australia is experiencing the same growing pains that other Western countries are experiencing as Islam moves its way into their societies. This creeping Islamic influence, having observed its results for several years from within a Western nation, is something I can at least comment on.

Islam carries with it certain baggage that makes many Westerners skeptical of it: The history of Islamic intrusions into Europe during the expansion of the caliphates (and how some Muslims in parts of the world still have not progressed ideologically beyond the mindset of those eras); The way terrorism seems to follow the religion and ideology everywhere it goes across the globe; The seemingly anti-progressive attitudes many Muslims hold towards women and homosexuals, two groups which the political left, often the cheerleaders of Islam, treat like their very own deep wells of social capital; the cultural differences between Westerners and more conservative Muslims; the upset in social harmony that often occurs when one foreign group of people move into a place not equipped to support them; the political conflicts that arise when concessions are made to Islam that seemingly contrast with Western moral standards and are done in the name of multiculturalism or diversity; and the list goes on.

Recently a rolling billboard advertising an Australia Day festival in Kings Domain featured several images, including one image that featured two Muslim girls dressed in hijabs and holding Australian flags. That particular image raised the ire of some Australians who feel the country’s national identity is being changed to accommodate (or include) people from places where the dominant culture is Islam, a religion and an ideology that often exerts and exports itself while remaining particularly indifferent to Western culture and values wherever it goes.

A meme posted to Twitter featuring two absolutely adorable Australian kids!

The controversy gained momentum after a photo of the billboard displaying the offending image circulated on social media. In response to public outcry, complaints and threats (the latter were made according to Victoria’s Minister for Cultural Affairs, Robin Scott) made to QMS Media, the outdoor media company responsible for the advertisement, the advertisement was removed from the billboard. That action, in turn, triggered a response from those sympathetic to the multiculturalism and pluralism promoted by the advertisement.

Dee Madigan, Creative Director of Campaign Edge, started a GoFundMe campaign to collect donations to purchase another billboard display featuring the picture of the two girls in hijabs. Since starting her GoFundMe campaign Madigan has collected more than her initial goal of $50 000 and has since increased the goal to $100 000 to fund even more billboards. Money left over from the billboard campaign will be donated to the Asylum Seeker Resource Centre according to the campaign’s GoFundMe page.

Campaign Edge is an advertising company that claims on its web site “We help you sell stuff. Whether it’s products and brands or causes and politics.” The firm has previously provided advertising campaigns for  Australian Labor Party candidates. Madigan’s support for multiculturalism, diversity and pro-Islamic attitudes may play out as a public relations win for the firm in Australia, or, it may not.

United Patriots Front leader Blair Cottrell took to Facebook to condemn the billboard saying it “provokes a bit of a negative response from a portion of the Australian working class, they didn’t like it very much” and called the advertisement a “government attempt to reform, redefine, and replace their nationality.” UPF is a political movement that describes itself on its Facebook page as “Australia’s political resistance against the spread of Islam and far-Left treason!”

This Australian “working class” Cottrell speaks of is very likely to be middle-class white people of European descent, many of whom feel they are being replaced with non-Western foreigners by activists and politicians trying to realize a multicultural utopia on the continent and politicians who are only trying to gain favor and votes among presumed easier-to-please immigrant populations. Some of these working class people feel they need to compete with newly arrived foreigners in many ways both culturally and economically while they gain little in return. (Perhaps they will gain the odd kebab shop or mosque they will pass on the street.) The fact is Australian society will still function without new cultures like Islam embedded inside it and many Australians feel Islam has nothing to offer their country. This disinterest or rejection of other cultures (like Islam) creates feelings of skepticism about “the others” and this skepticism when it is vocalized or manifested in certain ways is often derided as “racism”, prejudice, or “Islamophobia.” But really this skepticism is a defensive mechanism. Many Westerners with conservative attitudes reject the thought of their own culture making concessions for other cultures, especially those cultures they perceive as being inferior or hostile to their own, like those with the type of cultural baggage that Islam has.

The billboard controversy comes at a time when nearly 10 per cent of Australians say they would vote for Pauline Hanson’s One Nation Party in the Australian primary. Hanson seeks to ban the burqa in government buildings, schools and in banks.

In all likelihood Australians will see more billboards featuring the two girls in hijabs appear around their country very soon. The emergence of these billboards will be just one more example of culture clash in the West and is sure to stir mixed emotions even more among an increasingly diverse population.

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