Marvel has had a bad two weeks public relations-wise. First, last week, was a viral response to Marvel Comics executives controversial comments about readers not supporting diversity and, this week, was Qur’anic anti-Semitic and anti-Christian messages hidden in the art of X-Men Gold #1.
X-Men Gold is a series written by Marc Guggenheim with a platoon of artists to allow the book to ship twice weekly; those artists are Ken Lashley, R.B. Silva and Ardian Syaf. It was Syaf that was the artist for X-Men Gold #1 and he infused the book with verses of the Qu’ran that he intended to be racist in supporting a political movement in Indonesia that does not believe non-Muslims should rule. The situation in Indonesia is complex with a Christian head of state that is viewed to be corrupt by some. However, the intent of Syaf’s various political and religious statements in X-Men Gold #1 can only, with that political context in Indonesia, be viewed as being anti-Semitic and anti-Christian.
On his Facebook page, Ardian Syaf had an announcement of sorts on 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.
It appeared, based on that, that he’s off X-Men Gold after attempting to explain to Marvel his intent with the use of his use of Qur’anic passages and political messages like 212 in the pages of X-Men Gold were peacefully artistic expression.
Later, it seemed Syaf knew what was coming as Marvel released its second official statement in the matter indicating that, effectively, they fired Ardian Syaf from X-Men Gold.
Marvel has terminated Ardian Syaf’s contract effective immediately. ‘X-Men Gold’ #2 and #3 featuring his work have already been sent to the printer and will continue to ship bi-weekly. Issues #4, #5, and #6 will be drawn by R. B. Silva and issues #7, #8, and #9 will be drawn by Ken Lashley. A permanent replacement artist will be assigned to ‘X-Men Gold’ in the coming weeks.”
Prior to the announcement of Syaf’s termination, X-Men Gold artist Ken Lashley also weighed in on the controversy is a diplomatic way on his Facebook page:
We are given the trust to do the work . I could put my daughters name on a sign … or a name tag…my fav number on a person… whatever.. you can not expect a editor or a group of editors to catch that…they trusted him….l would never put a message of any kind that would be offensive to anyone.. the Xmen are not the forum for that…he has now made it a issue with anyone associated with the comic…he can believe what he wants.. and I respect his right to do that but as far as putting this in a comic series that l love and am working on is beyond the scoop of what’s professional..and he now has hurt the very people who trusted him…
Earlier, writer Marc Guggenheim commented on the controversy and linking to Marvel Comics’ first official statement on the matter.
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.
On his Facebook page, in response to a fan question, Guggenheim added that:
Lemme tell you, the support has been amazing. From fans and pros alike.
X-Men Gold artist R.B. Silva does not appear to have publicly commented on the controversy. If you’ve seen one from him though, please share. We’ve looked and can’t find a response (yet).
Finally, prominent Marvel writer G. Willow Wilson, who also is Muslim, had a longer commentary on the situation and throughtful analysis on the Qur’anic passages on her website. Here us an excerpt:
This verse is subject to a truly fantastical amount of bullshittery in the modern era. And that bullshittery takes on a particular flavor depending on the agenda of whoever is translating the verse. Keep in mind that 75% of Muslims are non-native speakers of Arabic (I’m one of them), and of that 75%, most know a few phrases of Arabic at most; just enough to be able to perform the five daily prayers, plus some tangentially related religious terminology (I know a bit more). To put it more simply, the vast majority of Muslims around the world do not read the Quran in the original Arabic. They read an interpretation rendered into their local language. And this is where the bullshittery starts.
Apparently, the Indonesian translation of 5:51 reads something like this: “Oh you who believe, take not the Jews and the Christians as leaders/advisors.” (I don’t speak or read Indonesian, so I am going off the explanations of others and stuff I have been able to find online.) The reason Syaf referenced this verse is because (apparently) he has been protesting a Christian governor in his province; a governor who has been accused of blasphemy and/or corruption and/or making fun of this particular verse of the Quran, depending on who you ask.
Here is the problem: the Arabic word in that verse that is translated variously as leader, advisor, friend, intimate etc is أولياء (awliya’), the plural of ولي (wali). And it means none of those things.
Awliya’ in this context means something very specific, and among Arabic speakers, that meaning has changed very little over the last 1400 years. A wali is a legal counselor or sometimes a legal guardian. Some examples: an unmarried girl must appoint a wali to act on her behalf during a marriage negotiation, according to Islamic law. Your lawyer is your wali in court. The executor of a will is the wali of the deceased. A parent is the wali of a child until that child reaches the age of majority. You get the gist.
The Indonesian interpretation, in this case, is less bullshitty than the English translation pushed primarily by certain extremist Sunni factions (cough the Saudis cough cough) which has also been making the rounds in comics media today: friend. A wali is not a friend. A wali is nothing even related to friendship. The literal translation of friend is siddiq; you could also use sahib (companion). Wali doesn’t even come from the same root as either of these words. The Quran never suggests you can’t be friends with non-Muslims. Which makes sense, because, you know, the Prophet had non-Muslim friends…
…This is all to say that Ardian Syaf can keep his garbage philosophy. He has committed career suicide; he will rapidly become irrelevant. But his nonsense will continue to affect the scant handful of Muslims who have managed to carve out careers in comics. From what I can deduce off of Facebook, it appears he is trying to claim the Charlie Hebdo defense…ie, he doesn’t mean anything by it; we just don’t understand the nuance and subtly of the local bigotry. Much good may it do him. Goodbye, Ardian Syaf. We hardly knew ye, which is just as well.
I hope this is last time I report on this unfortunate situation. Although, I imagine, we’ll be reporting at some point on who is replacing Ardian Syaf in the X-Men Gold artist platoon with Ken Lashley and R.B. Silva.
Tags: Ardian Syaf, G. Willow Wilson, Ken Lashley, Marc Guggenheim, R.B. Silva, X-Men, X-Men Gold