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Kenyan publisher recalls book after uproar over Prophet Muhammad image

Depictions of the Prophet Muhammad can cause serious offence to Muslims

By Wycliffe Muia

A Kenyan publisher has withdrawn a school book that included a drawing depicting Prophet Muhammad following an outcry by Muslim leaders and parents.

They complained that it was blasphemous to draw the prophet and to ask pupils to colour in the illustration.

Mentor Publishing Company said it regretted the “grave” mistake in the book on Islamic studies for pupils in the second year of primary school.

About 11% of Kenyans are Muslims, the second largest religious group.

Depictions of the Prophet Muhammad can cause serious offence to Muslims, with most of Islamic religious leaders saying that tradition explicitly forbids images of Prophet Muhammad and Allah (God).

A Muslim scholar from the coastal city of Mombasa, Sheikh Rishard Rajab Ramadhan, told the BBC that the book “dangerously” misled young children.

“No-one should imagine, leave alone attempt, to draw Prophet Muhammad. This can even cause war,” Mr Ramadhan said.

In a letter to the Muslim community, the publisher said it had come to its attention that the content in one of its books, Mentor Encyclopaedia Grade 2, was “sacrilegious to the Islamic faith”.

The drawing had been “inadvertently inserted” in the book, and “mistakenly identified it as the image of Prophet Muhammad”, said Mentor director Josephine Wanjuki.

“We sincerely and wholeheartedly apologise for the error and we commit to ensure that such an error will never be repeated,” she added.

The publisher said it would immediately remove the offensive drawing from all subsequent editions and has committed to work with the Muslim Education Council to review all its books.

All teachers, students and school administrators holding copies of the book have been advised to return them to the publisher.

Mr Ramadhan welcomed the move to recall copies of the book, but urged publishers to consult Muslim leaders before publishing Islamic books.

Religious studies are part of the curriculum in Kenyan schools.

The issue of depicting Prophet Muhammad has been a long-running controversy and has inflamed tensions, especially in Europe.

In 2020, a school teacher in France’s capital, Paris, Samuel Patywas was beheaded after using cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad during a lesson about freedom of speech.

In 2021, a teacher at a school in the British town of Batley was suspended after protests from Muslim parents for showing an “inappropriate” cartoon of Prophet Muhammad.

The teacher was later reinstated. An investigation found the teacher did not intend to cause offence by showing the image.

There is no specific or explicit ban in the Quran, the holy book of Islam, on images Prophet Muhammad.

But there is a reference to not depicting Allah and many Muslims believe the same applies to Prophet Muhammad.

Source: BBC

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