CHICAGO — A coloring book aimed at teaching children about the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001 has generated controversy for its depiction of Muslims and interpretation of the events.
"It's disgusting," said Dawud Walid, director of the Michigan branch of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, who has lead the charge against what he sees as an irresponsible and dangerous book.
Every mention or depiction of Muslims or Islam in the book titled "We shall never forget 9/11", is accompanied by the word "terrorist" or "extremist" and there are no counterbalancing images or references to the Muslims who were killed in the attacks or were among the first responders searching for survivors, Walid said Tuesday.
Nor does the book mention that the vast majority of Muslims in the United States and around the world condemn terrorism, he added.
"It's silly to think that a young person who colors that book who has no contact with Muslims would come away with anything but fear of Muslims and thinking that Muslims are bad people," Walid told AFP.
Really Big Coloring Books publisher Wayne Bell insists that the book is an honest portrayal of events.
"We tell this truth and tell it in black in white," Bell said in a telephone interview from his St. Louis, Missouri office.
"This book is about 19 evil terrorists who murdered 3,000 people," he said. "It just so happens that the people who flew those planes into the buildings were radical Muslim jihadists."
The book was released earlier this month ahead of the 10th anniversary of the attacks and comes after the specialized publishing house had seen customers search repeatedly on its websites for coloring books about the attacks.
"We did a lot of research, talked to a lot of parents and the recurring theme we heard was do not make a book that's politically correct and is going to whitewash this event," Bell said.
People also wanted a book that would be patriot and focused on a theme that became the book's title: "We shall never forget 9/11."
Subtitled "The Kids' Book of Freedom," the book teaches children that "freedom-hating radical Islamic Muslim Extremists" attacked America because they "hate the American way of life because we are FREE."
Walid said this overly simplistic and populist interpretation of events is simply not true.
He pointed to statements made by Osama bin Laden and the conclusions of the US congressional 9/11 commission which found the attacks were rooted in a belief that American foreign policy and its 'immoral' culture are at war with Islam and Muslim countries.
The cartoon of bin Laden hiding behind his wife as he is shot by a Navy SEAL is also not a true depiction of events, Walid noted.
Bell dismissed the criticism as an attempt to exploit an "innocent book" to promote a political agenda.
The controversy has had a positive impact: all the headlines have spurred sales.
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