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Marvel Comics fires Muslim artist following controversy

Ardian Syaf defends himself after using Quranic verse and symbols to make political statements, saying he did not spread 'hate message'.

Marvel Comics

An Indonesian Muslim comic artist who sparked controversy for inserting hidden political and religious references into his work has defended his moves, in an interview.

Ardian Syaf drew attention when one of his paintings had the number 212 in the background, a reference to a large protest held last December against Jakarta's first Christian governor, Basuki "Ahok" Tjahaja Purnama, who was accused of blasphemy against Islam.

The politically charged comic strips led Marvel Comics to terminate the freelance contributor's contract, saying Syaf's drawings went against the brand's message of inclusiveness.

In another controversial drawing, Syaf sneaked in the number 5:51, which refers to a verse in the Quran which some interpret to mean Muslims should only appoint other Muslims as leaders.

The verse has been used by hardliners and political opponents to discredit Ahok, who faces an election run-off on Wednesday.

"For us Muslims, it is not a hate message," Syaf said. "It's a rule from Allah. Allah, through this verse, says Muslim cannot choose a non-Muslim leader. That's not hatred."

Syaf also drew scorn from the local industry for being "unprofessional". Some illustrators believe his drawings ruin the reputation of other Muslims artists.

"He knew the personalities of the comic figures he was drawing," said Aji Prasetyo, an author and comic artist.

"If those characters fight for equal rights and respect differences in beliefs, why put symbols that are opposed to these values?"

But Syaf says he has no regrets, even if the move puts his career is in jeopardy.


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