A Kenyan publisher has decided to withdraw a school book from circulation due to objections from members of the Muslim community. The controversy arose from a drawing within the book that depicted Prophet Muhammad, which was deemed blasphemous by some Muslims.
The publisher received various complaints from Muslim individuals who found the portrayal of the Prophet and the instruction for students to color the sketch offensive. In response to these concerns, the publisher issued a statement expressing deep regret for what they referred to as a “grave mistake.” Subsequently, they decided to recall the book, which is part of the curriculum for second-year primary school students and focuses on Islamic studies.
In their statement, the publisher clarified that the inclusion of the image was an unintentional error and offered a sincere apology to the Muslim community for this oversight. They also committed to taking measures to ensure that such an error would not occur in the future.
As part of their commitment to resolving the issue, the publisher pledged to remove the controversial drawing from all future editions of the book. Furthermore, they announced their collaboration with the Muslim Education Council to review all their forthcoming publications, aiming to prevent similar issues in the future.
As a result of this agreement, the publisher has requested that all teachers, students, and school administrators who possess the book return it to the publisher.
Sheikh Rishard, a Muslim scholar from Mombasa who had previously criticized the image as “dangerous,” welcomed the publisher’s decision, viewing it as a positive step. He also urged publishers to consult with Muslim leaders in the future to avoid such controversies.
It’s worth noting that Kenya is not the only country to have faced outrage over depictions of Prophet Muhammad in school materials. In 2020, a French teacher faced a tragic incident after showing caricatures of Prophet Muhammad during a class debate, ostensibly in the name of promoting free speech.
In Kenya, Islam is the second most populous religion, with approximately 11% of the population adhering to the faith.