The Prophet Muhammad in a Coloring Book
Unbelief Brief
October 22, 2023
In Kenya, a publishing company faced uproar from Muslim parents and the Ministry of Education as a book for 2nd grade students included a depiction of Muhammad.

Grand Ayatollah Shirazi: “One cannot easily attribute apostasy to anyone.”

Earlier this month, Grand Ayatollah Seyyed Sadiq al-Hosseini al-Shirazi answered questions of religious jurisprudence issues. In particular, the question of what makes an apostate came up. According to the Supreme Marja, a person is only an apostate if they share that they are an apostate or share their non-Islamic beliefs. Essentially, you’re only culpable if you talk about it.

Such a ruling is of grave importance to ex-Muslims in Muslim-majority countries as at least 11 of them punish apostasy with death. So how does Grand Ayatollah Shirazi’s definition of apostasy apply in Iran? - People who protest the mandatory instruction of the Quran in schools, spiritualists, secularists, and converts to Christianity are sentenced to death; there’s no religious freedom in Iran. We’ve seen that the Islamic regime’s control of Iranians’ religious expression materializes as death sentences for open apostates, hijab mandates, strict laws on premarital relations with the opposite sex, etc. 

Pakistan’s Trans Community Reckons with Backlash and Blasphemy Allegations

Khawaja siras are an indigenous third gender recognized in Pakistan for people who are intersex or otherwise gender non-conforming. The existence of this group integrated into Pakistani society has meant that their trans community has been treated with a more progressive regard relative to other countries in the MENA region; however, their freedoms were granted on the basis of the spiritual, cultural, and political underpinnings of khawaja siras in the Indian subcontinent. With the influence of British colonization and Islamization, their status has been diminished with their association to the queer community.

As a result, the trans community and khawaja siras in Pakistan have been facing mounting hatred—even as serious as blasphemy allegations—as anti-trans campaigns take hold throughout the country. According to Rimal Farrukh of L’AFP, “Tactics used by the campaign include hardline Islamic rhetoric, harassment, cyberbullying, and doxing in the form of leaks of personal data, including pre- and post-transition pictures of activists.” These draconian anti-trans laws prevailing around the world are met with criticism everywhere they exist and yet religious sentiments are taking precedence over LGBT rights, even in secular nations. 

Mentor Publishing’s “Grade 2 Mentor Encyclopedia” Recalled for a Coloring Page of Muhammad

In Kenya, Mentor Publishing Co Ltd faced uproar from Muslim parents and the Ministry of Education as a book for 2nd grade students from their “Mentor Encyclopedia” series included a depiction of Muhammad, the founder of Islam. 

The publishers released a statement in response to apologize for the picture: “We had inadvertently inserted a drawing and mistakenly identified it as the image of Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him). Kindly accept this sincere apology and we commit to ensure that such an error will never be repeated. Going forward, we undertake…immediate measures to correct and redress this unfortunate occurrence.” Mentor Publishing has been ordered to recall the books and they have promised to remove the picture of Muhammad from subsequent versions of the encyclopedia.

Roughly 10% of Kenya’s population is Muslim, so it’s interesting that a Kenyan publisher could accidentally slip in a depiction of Muhammad, especially considering the intensity of responses to depictions of Muhammad in the past. It’s generally understood that drawing Muhammad is highly offensive to Muslims, so there’s some irony in Mentor Publishing releasing an encyclopedia with a section on Islam that asks children to color in the prophet.

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