Arab News: 9/11 children’s coloring book sparks controversy
By Molouk Y. Ba-Isa, September 5, 2011. DAMMAM: As the 10th anniversary of the Sept. 11, 2001 tragedy approaches, Wayne Bell, publisher of Really Big Coloring Books, Inc. of Clayton, Missouri, US, has released what he calls a “memorial tribute” coloring book. “We shall never forget: The kids’ book of freedom,” is being described by Bell as a “graphic coloring novel on the events of Sept. 11, 2001.” According to ABC 7 News in Chicago, the coloring book contains the phrase “radical Islamic Muslim extremists,” at least 10 times.
Text from the coloring book reads, “Children, the truth is, these terrorist attacks were done by freedom-hating radical Islamic Muslim extremists.” On the same page as that text, Osama Bin Laden is shown holding a woman in front of him as a Navy SEAL points a gun at him.
The picture is explained with a story of how Bin Laden used his wife as a human shield — even though a statement from the White House said that never happened. View sample pages from the book at www.coloringbook.com/weshallneverforget911coloringbook.aspx. The coloring book is filled with violence and negative Muslim portrayals. In a video promoting his publication, Bell said: “To the American people and all others who may read this child’s coloring book, “We Shall Never Forget,” is designed to be a tool that parents can use to help teach children about the facts surrounding 9/11. This book also describes basic freedoms in America. We suggest parental guidance. As the 9/11 events are shown countless times on national media, this book will help children understand the meaning of these events. The book was created with honesty, integrity, reverence, respect and does not shy away from the truth. In this book you will see what happens to a terrorist who orders others to bomb our peace loving, wonderful nation.” Representatives from the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) have spoken out through several newspapers and on US television. Amina Sharif, a spokeswoman for the Chicago chapter of CAIR told the Chicago Tribune that the book is “hateful, inflammatory and completely inappropriate for children or anyone for that matter.” Dawud Walid, executive director of CAIR, was interviewed on CNN. He said, “We think it would have been more responsible if the language (in the coloring book) would not have been as such that every time Muslim was used as radical, extremist, and terrorist. And that, all of these caricatures can paint into the mind of a young person that, perhaps, all Muslims may be somewhat responsible for 9/11 or that Muslims, themselves, might be an enemy within the United States of America.” “We Shall Never Forget,” may be purchased online through Amazon.com and ColoringBook.com. Really Big Coloring Books claims that the first print run of 10,000 copies have been sold out at $6.99 and that more are being printed daily to keep up with demand. A petition has been started at www.change.org/petitions/the-911-coloring-book-discontinue-the-911-coloring-book to request that the publisher cease printing the book. CBS News in St.
Louis reported that the publisher has contacted the FBI and local police to complain about people calling the company to say “negative things” about the book.
Online forums about the book are filled with ugly comments about Islam and Muslims. While there are some postings decrying the potential of the book to foment hate and the inappropriateness of the book for children, the diatribes against Islam, Muslims and Arabs are overwhelming. It is interesting to note that the defamatory comments are being allowed to remain, although many forums have policies against the posting of hate speech. In an ironic twist, Bell stated that Really Big Coloring Books will be donating a portion of the proceeds from the sale of the coloring book to Bridges for Peace, a Christian organization that undertakes “practical deeds expressing God’s love and mercy.”