Controversial 'sharia law' billboard vandalised
A SUNSHINE Coast group has spoken out in anger after its billboard, arguably the most controversial sign on the Sunshine Coast, was vandalised.
The sign on the Sunshine Mwy at Maroochydore declared "No Sharia Here", and was commissioned by the Sunshine Coast Safe Communities (SCSC) group almost three years ago.
It has been sprayed over to read "No Racism Here", with the vandalism reported to SCSC on Saturday afternoon.
The group declared on social media the perpetrator supported Sharia law in Australia.
"Only those that hate equality, freedoms and western values would support Sharia and call the defence of freedoms and equality as racism," members posted on Facebook.
"But will they remain cowards and ignorant idiots? Contacts are on the sign...we challenge you to face us."
SCSC secretary Raewyn Hutchins said the group was disappointed at the action.
"We think it's more of an indication of the lack of understanding of people who don't know what Sharia law is about, and who use strange tactics in order to get their message across," Mrs Hutchins said.
"It shows a lack of freedom of speech, we think that there is a closing down of freedom speech, and a closing down of sensible and also well-mannered debate in this country."
SCSC members will meet with police today to discuss the matter.
"We don't know whether or not they trespassed on private property where the sign is, or whether or not they stood on the roadside and used a long stick," Mrs Hutchins said.
The defacing has reignited debate over the billboard, with Buddies Refugee Support Group member Bronwyn Bell arguing the sign was misleading and divisive.
"There is no threat of Sharia Law gaining any sort of foothold in Australia," Mrs Bell said.
"The overwhelming majority of Muslims who live in Australia are nominal or moderate in their faith (just as are the majority of Christians in this country) and they just want to integrate into the Australian way of life and live peacefully under Australian laws."
Mrs Bell said SCSC had chosen an "innocuous-sounding" name to gain wider political and community support, but constantly targeted minorities including Muslims and homosexuals.
"Their idea of keeping the community 'safe' is to keep it white, Christian and strongly conservative and to do this they deliberately prey on irrational fears and stir up hate and division," she said.
Mrs Hutchins said the Sunshine Coast group had about 900 members with other Safe Community groups starting up throughout Queensland.
She said in the three years the sign had been in place, SCSC had received plenty of support over its message.
"Really, this is the first time ever that somebody has reacted in such a way," she said.