The Canberra Theatre Centre has been forced to delete social media posts about an Australia Day advertisement featuring two Muslim girls after it was threatened with extreme violence.
The ACT Government-run theatre took to social media on Monday stating it was “proud to be displaying” the advertisement on its big screen in the centre of Canberra until January 26.
But the theatre soon deleted the post and locked down its social media pages after it was inundated with threatening messages.
The anti-Islamic group Respect Australia posted the theatre’s contact details to its members encouraging them to make their feelings known.
Those posts have attracted hundreds of comments including calls to bomb the theatre building, set fire to it or destroy the screen with bricks.
Bomb it,” reads one post, “burn that sh*t down now” reads another.”
Others called for “people … to go there and destroy it” and “torch da (sic) dump”.
In a video he uploaded to his own Facebook page, an organiser of Respect Australia can be seen with supporters out of the front of the theatre, accusing the ACT Government of being “un-Australian”.
“This isn’t a racial thing, it isn’t any religious discrimination or anything, this is an Australian cultural thing,” the organiser said in the videos.
A ‘wonderful example of multiculturalism’: government
The billboard first made headlines when it was pulled down in Melbourne’s south-east after the advertising company was abused and threatened for including the images of the two girls in hijabs.
Anti-racism campaigners lobbied and raised funds for its return.
The ACT Government said on Monday it was joining that campaign by “using this image across Government assets in the lead up to Australia Day”.
“The image of these young girls is a wonderful example of multiculturalism at work,” an ACT Government statement said.
These girls are proudly Australian but also respectful of their heritage. They are a fine example of a 21st century Australia which should be celebrated and seen by as many people as possible.”
There will always be rednecks; chief minister
Chief Minister Andrew Barr has slammed the reaction to the advertisement as “fanatical” and “irrational”, adding the Government would not back down.
“We shouldn’t bow to that sort of intimidation,” he said.
“There will always be racist rednecks in any community but I’m not going to give them any succour in the ACT.
“If these are serious threats then … those who’ve made them should be arrested and the full force of the law thrown at them.
“You can’t threaten to blow up buildings in this country without facing criminal charges.”
Mr Barr said he was confident the majority of Canberrans supported the billboard.
“For those who are concerned about the contents of the signs I have a very simple message: ‘get a life, get over it’,” he said.
‘I’m shocked something like this would happen in Canberra’
Chair of the Canberra Multicultural Community Forum Diana Abdel-Rahman said the threats were out of character for Canberrans.
“I’m still shocked and I’m shocked that something like this would be happening in Canberra,” Ms Abdel-Rahman told ABC Radio Canberra.
“We have a community that pretty much gets on, live and let live more or less you know, we accept everyone.
“We disagree, absolutely, but we don’t threaten each other with violence.”
She said most of the time the abuse was hypocritical.
What concerns me is that the same people who are threatening and being abusive about Muslims are the same ones that complain about Muslims not integrating or being part of Australian society.
“Sometimes I just think we’re damned if we do and damned if we don’t.”