The long-awaited first issue of X-Men Gold was marred in controversy when several readers discovered the insertion of anti-Semitic messages hidden within the artwork. Indonesian artist Ardian Syaf incorporated Quran Surah 5:51 onto Colossus’ shirt, a verse which was the subject of recent protests against Jakarta’s Christian governor Basuki Tjahaja Purnama.
The verse in question is commonly translated as “O you who have believed, do not take the Jews and the Christians as allies. They are [in fact] allies of one another. And whoever is an ally to them among you – then indeed, he is [one] of them. Indeed, Allah guides not the wrongdoing people.” However, as Ms. Marvel writer G. Willow Wilson has pointed out, in the context of Jakarta it most likely refers to Muslim communities not appointing Jewish or Christian figures as their leaders.
While included personal easter eggs is not a frowned-upon practice among comic book artists, it’s a very different story when that easter egg contains a charged political and religious statement. Whatever message Syaf was trying to send with its inclusion, the one received is appallingly negative. Especially considering that X-Men Gold writer Marc Guggenheim was raised Jewish, Kitty Pryde herself is a celebrated Jewish character, and X-Men is meant to be a story about tolerance rather than division.
The picture becomes even more concerning when looking at a particular panel of Kitty in the issue. 212 may just be an area code in New York City, but it’s another reference to the Jakarta protests for Ardian Syaf and others aware of the situation. More alarmingly, Kitty’s head covers up the “Jewelry” sign on the store in the panel’s background, leaving the first syllable as the most prominently displayed.
Given that the protests in Jakarta were against a Christian governor accused of blasphemy, it’s unclear why Syaf would bring Judaism into his message or how it can be interpreted as anything positive or even neutral. The Jewelry store sign specifically seems to be an visual assault, as many readers look up to Kitty Pryde as a strong Jewish character whose importance in the X-Men allegory of tolerance cannot be understated. Since we can’t explain it, here are Ardian Syaf’s own words on the subject (from his facebook page):
My career is over now.
It’s the consequence what I did, and I take it.
Please no more mockery, debat, no more hate. I hope all in peace.
In this last chance, I want to tell you the true meaning of the numbers, 212 and QS 5:51.
It is number of JUSTICE. It is number of LOVE. My love to Holy Qur’an…my love to the last prophet, the Messenger…my love to ALLAH, The One God.
My apologize for all the noise. Good bye, May God bless you all. I love all of you.
Though Syaf was originally solicited as the artist through X-Men Gold #4, CBR announced today that Marvel was terminating his contract with the company, “effective immediately.” His art will continue for X-Men Gold #2 and #3, since it’s too late to recall those issues from the printer. However, R.B. Silva will take over starting with X-Men Gold #4, followed by Ken Lashley on #7.
There is no word yet on whether these changes will delay the shipping of future issues, but hopefully the series will continue to spread a message of unity for all people – whether they are Muslim, Jewish, Christian or belonging to any other religion or creed.