A sign was set up outside a restaurant in outback Queensland this week.
The restaurant — Eagles Nest Bar and Grill in Longreach — has a tradition of scrawling “funny” messages on its pavement chalkboard to attract clientele. But this week, the pub’s sign is going viral — because the sign includes a phrase that was about as far away from funny as you can get.
“Sorry, no Muslims“, the sign’s fluoro yellow chalk lettering screamed.
A photo of that message was posted to the restaurant’s Facebook page last Friday, was subsequently picked up by Facebook group Boycott Halal in Australia? No Way and has since been shared hundreds of times.
Unsurprisingly, the blatantly discriminatory sign has started sparking condemnation and debate on social media. Perhaps more surprisingly, the owner, when confronted by criticism over the offensive sign, has made clear that he feels he’s the victim in this story.
Yep, owner John Hakwes defended his decision as an expression of “free speech and patriotic sentiment” in an interview with the ABC. Refusing to apologise to Australia’s Muslim community for the message, he also expressed outrage that he had received “more than 200 phone calls” in response to the sign.
“While the great majority are in support of free speech and are of patriotic sentiment, we have fielded too many abusive and threatening calls. For this I apologise to my family,” he said. “I sincerely hope I don’t end up sanitising my every thought to the robotic degree that is evident in commercial life around us.”
Photo: Google Maps
Now, we can all agree that our democratic society is fundamentally underpinned by a right to free speech. We live in a country that encourages a diversity of opinions and allows hearty debate on issues of national importance — and yep, those who agree we’re lucky to live in such a country can comfortably call ourselves “patriotic”.