Ever since the printing press was invented, books have often been a source of controversy.
“We Shall Never Forget 9/11: The Kids’ Book of Freedom,” was just released by Wayne Bell, publisher of Really Big Coloring Books Inc. in St. Louis. It begins with big graphic black-and-white drawings of bin Laden plotting the 9/11 attacks, then shows the burning towers, the hunt for bin Laden, and ends with a Navy SEAL shooting bin Laden as he hides behind a woman in Islamic garb.
The accompanying text reads: “Being the elusive character that he was, and after hiding out with his terrorist buddies in Pakistan and Afghanistan, American soldiers finally locate the terrorist leader Osama bin Laden.” It continues, “Children, the truth is, these terrorist acts were done by freedom-hating radical Islamic Muslim extremists. These crazy people hate the American way of life because we are FREE and our society is FREE.”
According to the publisher, the book’s initial print run of 10,000 copies has already sold out.
As an American, I find that incredibly disturbing. And as an American Muslim, I find the coloring book disgusting.
As we approach the tenth anniversary of 9/11, Muslim Americans are mourning, too. Muslims were among those killed in the attacks and Muslims were among the first responders who risked their own lives to save others. In spite of what coloring books like “We Shall Never Forget 9/11” encourage one to believe, most of us are proud to be contributing, tax-paying, law-abiding, freedom-loving members of a nation we love.
And we’re alarmed by the manufactured Muslim-bashing, Quran-burning, mosque-opposing culture that’s been brewing in recent years in this nation founded by refugees seeking religious freedom.
To me, this coloring book is a part of that hate-espousing rhetoric and it’s even worse because it’s injecting that venom into children.
Bell, the book’s publisher said the book doesn’t portray Muslims “in a negative light at all. That is incorrect. This is about 19 terrorist hijackers that came over here under the leadership of a devil worshipper, Osama bin Laden, to murder our people… This is history. It is absolutely factual.”
The Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) said the book tries to link all Muslims to terrorism and could lead children to believe that all Muslims are their enemies.
“America is full of these individuals and groups seeking to demonize Islam and marginalize Muslims and it's just a fact of life in the post-9/11 era,” Ibrahim Hooper, communications director of CAIR, told the Toronto Star. Nonetheless, he said he hoped “parents would recognize the agenda behind this book and not expose their children to intolerance or religious hatred.”
I loved coloring books when I was a kid. But the ones I colored had cartoon characters and fairy tale princesses and bucolic scenes of farms and tractors.
Between racy role models and risqué video games, music, and TV shows, we’re already burdening our kids with enough mature content to turn a five-year-old’s hair gray.
A coloring book that depicts a Navy SEAL shooting bin Laden with live ammo erupting from his gun? Our kids don’t need this.
The story told and scenes depicted in “We Shall Never Forget 9/11” engender hatred in children and that is downright dangerous.
Husna Haq is a Monitor correspondent.