MARVEL Comics have found themselves in the middle of an uproar over religious messages in the latest edition of their X-men comics, prompting them to remove some artwork and take disciplinary action against Indonesian artist, Ardian Syaf.
As reported by Jakarta Globe, Ardian included coded references to the ongoing political scandal of Jakarta Governor Basuki “Ahok” Tjahaja Purnama and the controversy surrounding his blasphemy charges.
Ahok was charged with blasphemy back in December after edited footage appeared to show him insulting the Quran. The controversy led to hundreds of thousands of Muslim protestors taking to the streets of Jakarta to demand Ahok be prosecuted for his statements. Blasphemy is illegal in secular Indonesia.
SEE ALSO: Indonesia: Who is Ahok?
East Javan native Ardian included the references in the debut issue of the new comic series X-men Gold. In one panel, a character’s shirt displays the logo “QS 5:51” in reference to the Quranic verse 51 from Surah 5, which is widely interpreted to mean non-Muslims should not become the leaders of Muslims.
This was the same verse Ahok had allegedly referred to during a rally that landed him with blasphemy charges.
In another panel, which the artist posted to Facebook, the number “212” is clearly seen emblazoned on a building as character Kitty Pryde addresses a group of people in the street.
The number references the anti-Ahok protests that occurred in Jakarta on Dec. 2, 2016.
Indonesian netizens started pointing out the symbolism over the weekend and since then the internet has gone wild with accusations of anti-Christian and anti-Jewish messages appearing in the comic.
— 惡 (@AcalaShrugged) April 8, 2017
— Dirga Ong (@diekarasu) April 8, 2017
— Redd (@nigel_redd) April 8, 2017
Ardian’s art also placed character Kitty Pryde’s head adjacent to the “jew” portion of a “jewelry” sign in the background, leading some to interpret this as a reference to her religion due to her being one of the most prominent Jewish heroes in the series.
The outcry from fans led Marvel to release a statement to Comicbook.com saying the artwork was inserted “without knowledge behind it 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,” the statement read.
The company explained that the artwork will be removed from subsequent printings and “disciplinary action is being taken.”
Ardian remains unapologetic for including the references and defended his work on Facebook saying, “I don’t hate Jews and Christians… I have a many good friends [among them] too.”