The recent Adrian Syaf and Marvel comics saga has caused a stir in Indonesia and even made headlines internationally.
To help you make sense of it all, here are the 5 things you need to know.
1. The Mass Protests
A mass protest took place in Jakarta on December 2, 2016, attended by around 200,000 people, aimed against the Governer of Jakarta, Basuki Purnama, or ‘Ahok’.
To an extent, the protests were sparked by a September 27, 2016 speech by Ahok. In the speech, it was stated that some citizens were being discouraged from voting for him by people citing Verse 51 of the fifth chapter of the Quran out of context for political reasons.
2. The Verse and it's Meaning
Citizens reacted to Basuki's statement as an insult to the Quran, in part because one of the videos of the speech uploaded to the Internet was edited in a way that changed the meaning of his words. The verse, Quran Surah 5:51, or QS 5:51, is commonly translated in Indonesian as "Muslims should not appoint the Jews and Christians as their leader."
The quran.com translation reads, "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."
3. Adrian Syaf
Adrian Syaf is a successful Indonesian comic book artist from Tulungagung, East Java. Syaf has worked for DC Comics, Marvel Comics and Dynamite Entertainment. He has a history of hiding ‘Easter Eggs’ (hidden messages) in his comics, mainly with political messages.
4. The Messages
On Pages 10 and 11 of X-Men Gold #1, in which the Jewish X-Man Kitty Pryde appeals to a crowd of people for tolerance:
- Syaf's art places Kitty's head next to the word "Jewelry" on a storefront in the background.
- The number "212", a reference to the 2 December protest, is prominently placed on another store.
- The number "51" is seen on the baseball cap of one of the people in the crowd
- On the shirt of another, there is another reference to the Quranic verse 5:51 at the center of the Indonesia protests
- In the second panel, the X-Man Colossus wears a shirt prominently displaying the text "QS 5:51".
5. The Reaction
This led to an outcry on social media on April 8, by readers who viewed the verse as support of intolerance towards other religions. Online backlash pointed out that this was made more inappropriate by the fact that the X-Men storylines have traditionally pointed out the dangers of bigotry since their creation in 1963.
Syaf acknowledged the political nature of the hidden messages, but denied that they were an expression of intolerance on his part, stating
"I don't hate Jews and Christians… I have a many good friends [among them] too."
Marvel Comics released the following statement in response to the controversy:
"The mentioned artwork in X-Men Gold #1 was inserted without knowledge behind its reported meanings. These implied references do not reflect the views of the writer, editors or anyone else at Marvel and are in direct opposition of the inclusiveness of Marvel Comics and what the X-Men have stood for since their creation. This artwork will be removed from subsequent printings, digital versions, and trade paperbacks and disciplinary action is being taken."